Maia Daniels knew she should just ignore the boys. Walk past, don’t listen, she told herself. Don’t talk back.
It was ten o’clock on a Saturday night. The gang were sitting on a wall outside Claydon Pub, passing around a smoke. She’d seen some of them at high school, when they decided to turn up that is.
Whooping and yelling came from the pub. A television blared loudly, no doubt replaying the All Blacks’ rugby match against the Wallabies. Maia stopped at the driveway as a purple Holden drove into the car park. Music blasted from inside the souped-up machine, the bass pumping its steady beat out into the night.
“Maia, c’mere,” Tama Harris yelled.
The gang leader was eighteen, tall and solidly built, with a wide, flat nose. He’d shaved off his hair recently, replacing it with a curved pattern called a moko. Usually, the tattoo adorned the face, a sign of a Maori warrior—something to be proud of. But Tama was no one to be proud of, nothing but a dreg who constantly harassed her. Unlike the other boys, he wore his hoodie tied around his waist, his ripped jeans and muscle shirt unsuitable for the cold autumn weather. Maia figured he was probably high on something, either from the weed in his hand or the empty bottles at his feet—or both.
“Hey, Maia! Are ya a double d?” a podgy boy with spiky blond hair shouted.
“They sure felt like it,” Tama replied, his hand actions eliciting laughter from the gang.
A blush ran across Maia’s cheeks. Shit, she hated her breasts. Even in her oversized sweatshirt they still grabbed attention. She pulled her hood further over her head, and rounded her shoulders. After another car passed, she hitched up her track pants and walked across the muddy driveway.
Tama hollered, “Oi! I told ja to c’mere.”
She looked back, aching to give him the finger, but instead jammed her hands into her pockets. God, she was a moron for sneaking out, but ... Ben’s raves were always awesome. Why couldn’t her mum let her go? It wasn’t like she did drugs, and the boys at the party were just mates.
Tama’s scowl changed into a grin. He threw his joint onto the ground and jumped off the stone wall. With a jerk of his head, he indicated for the gang to follow.
Maia’s heartbeat picked up. Still concentrating on Tama, she stepped off the kerb and onto Waiata Crescent. The blast of a horn made her leap back. The front passenger leaned out of a battered sedan, and swore at her. Ignoring the pimply git, she scooted around the car and across the side road.
A loud wolf-whistle made her jump. She glanced over her shoulder. Tama’s eyes were fixated on her, promising things she didn’t want.
He grabbed his crotch. “I like ya from behind, Maia.”
All the boys, except for Mikey Thomas, laughed. Tama’s cousin looked away as though uncomfortable with what was happening. He was fourteen and in her class at school. She thought he liked her; either that or he had a staring problem. Yeah, she’d only noticed because she was usually checking him out too.
Maia wondered if she could lose the gang by cutting across the highway. Traffic was heavy, making this option just as dangerous as stopping for Tama. Further up the road, past the tyre yard, the video and liquor stores’ lights were on. The neon sign of the happy video man was a welcoming sight. It was maybe a hundred metres away. She thought she had a chance of outrunning Tama. She was fast, damned fast. If she’d showed up to school enough, she probably would’ve been on the track team.
“Maia, pretty Maia,” Tama taunted. “I’ve got sumpthin’ to show you.”
Maia wasn’t sure whether it was a knife—or something else in his pants. She knew he carried a switchblade. He’d stabbed her brother in the arm once when Nike attacked him with a baseball bat. She’d always wondered whether this was why Tama harassed her. But she couldn’t blame Nike for it. Leila, his girlfriend at the time, had caused the fight. The bitch had cheated on him with Tama, then cried rape after he found out.
“Leave me alone, Tama,” she said, remembering the last time he’d approached her. She’d kicked him in the balls for grabbing her breasts. “Nike said he’d beat the living snot outta you if you came near me again.”
“I’d love to see him fuckin’ try. Plus, you owe me, bitch.”
Maia knew she should keep her mouth shut; that whenever she spoke it got her into trouble. Her mother had told her countless times, “You speak too much, Maia, you should listen more.”
She grinned, unable to help herself. “What do I owe you? More bruised balls?”
She heard a slicing noise behind her, the sound of a switchblade being opened. Shit!
“Get her,” Tama yelled.
Maia took off, her legs pumping hard and fast. Behind her boots pounded the pavement. The trainers she’d swiped from her brother were too big and clunky, making it difficult to pick up speed. She could hear someone getting closer, no doubt Tama. Damn, the prick was fast.
Fingers brushed her arm. As she turned sharply, leaping over the bushes on her left, something metallic clattered onto the pavement behind her. Tama swore at Mikey.
Maia ran down the little slope and across the driveway, ploughing into the back of a car as it pulled out of a space. Someone grabbed her hood, yanking it off. Her thick brown hair spilled out. She screamed and swung out with her arms, connecting with Mikey. He yelped and let go. She ran in between cars, almost bashing into someone as they opened up their door, then shot into the video shop, only stopping once she was in front of the counter.
The twenty-something clerk looked up from his magazine. Short, with a badly pocked face, he was dressed in a yellow uniform that clashed with his bright orange hair. He appeared confused, until he glanced over at the boys entering the shop. Maia could see fear changing his facial features.
“Can I please use your phone, Mista?” She moved around the side of the counter as the boys stopped at the other end.
The clerk picked up the phone.
Tama pointed his blade at him. “Drop it or I’ll slice you.”
The clerk did as instructed and held up his hands. “I want no trouble, man.”
“Then stay outta my fuckin’ business.”
Behind Tama, Mikey grabbed a packet of chips from the stand in front of the counter and opened it. He was tall and skinny, dressed in the gang’s uniform of black boots, jeans, and hoodie. He started to munch on the chips, his eyes wandering up to the movie playing on the television screen above Maia’s head.
The four other thugs took Mikey’s lead and grabbed a packet each. Maia couldn’t remember their names, didn’t want to either. A woman and her young son, no older than eight, quickly exited the store. Maia looked up the aisle, past the rows of DVDs and videos at a man, her eyes pleading with him to help her. He was big, with broad shoulders and muscular arms, possibly a body builder. He looked from her to Tama and shook his head, backing away down the aisle. She wanted to scream at him, “Help me,” but decided it would set Tama off.
To her left, familiar faces peered back at her from the shelves. Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, Jackie Chan, all pretend heroes she wished were real.
She moved behind the candy display. “C’mon, Tama, I wuz only jokin’ ‘bout the balls comment. You know I can’t help myself...” she gabbled nervously with a wide grin on her face. Dammit! Why did she always have to grin when she was scared shitless?
Tama waved her over with his switchblade. “If ya nice to me, I won’t hurt cha.”
Maia bit down on her lip, stopping a derogatory remark from escaping her mouth. She knew what Tama meant by being nice, and she wasn’t going to take it lying down—or any other fucking position.
A woman screamed on the television behind her, an actress she didn’t know. Probably another bimbo in a slasher movie, she thought. Maia wanted to laugh, or cry, at the irony. Outside car doors slammed, followed by a rowdy bunch of teenagers entering the store. They took one look at Tama and his gang and left, followed by more doors slamming and the screech of tyres.
Maia knew she was in for it now. Absolutely no one was willing to help her. “C’mon, no fair, six against one.” She scanned the shop, weighing up her options. There was no way she could make it past them and out the front door. She glanced at the back room. Most places had a back door. Didn’t they?
A police siren came closer. She prayed it was going to stop, but doubted it. Claydon, the shithole, was one of the most policed areas in Auckland. The problem was there were never enough police to cover the sprawling suburb, where poorly built fibrolite houses, factories and graffiti walls populated the landscape. As she’d guessed, the police car drove past, the sound of the siren disappearing down the highway to help some other victim.
Tama smiled lewdly. “I’ll get rid of the others if ya come with me.”
Mikey mumbled something then jerked back as Tama turned on him.
“Fuckin’ shut it, Mikey,” Tama snapped.
Maia saw her opportunity. She took off down the aisle, past the big wimp and into the backroom, quickly locking the door as Tama bashed into it. God, she was lucky the door had a lock. Breathing heavily, she switched on the light and scanned the room. She swore loudly. A bench, sink, a small table and chair, but no backdoor! She looked up at the window above the bench, wondering whether she could slip through it. More bangs sounded on the other side of the door. Well, she’d give it a damn good try.
She pulled herself up onto the bench. Her hand connected with a coffee mug. It toppled over and fell to the floor, smashing across the lino. She pushed open the window. Tama continued to thump against the door. It sounded like he was ramming it with his shoulder. She wished it was his head.
The noise stopped. “Open the fuckin’ door, Maia!”
“Fuck off,” she yelled back.
More thumps started up, along with a litany of swear words that would make even her stepdad blush. She pushed her head through and gripped onto the aluminium frame. A welcoming breeze hit her flushed face. She wiggled through enough to get half of her body out just as the door crashed open. In a panic, she pushed herself forward, scraping her stomach against the metal. Someone grabbed one of her feet. She kicked at them and pushed again. Her shoe came off in their hands as she fell through the window.
She hit the ground, landing on her back. Her breath pushed out, winding her. Stunned, she lay looking up at the sky. “I see stars.” She knew it wasn’t funny, but like grinning she said the stupidest things when she was scared or in pain.
Her attention shifted to Mikey as he tried to fit through the window. He got halfway and started yelling, “I’m stuck, pull me back ... Ow! That fuckin’ hurts. Stop yankin’ me.”
Maia still couldn’t believe Mikey was chasing her. She thought he was different from the others, only hanging out with them because of his cousin. Even after he tried to grab her, she had hoped he’d change his mind and help her. Fuck, she was a moron for even thinking that. He was the same as Tama, wanting a piece of her and not giving a stuff how he got it.
“You bastard,” she shouted. “I can’t believe I liked you.”
Mikey stopped wriggling and stared down at her with a stunned expression. He closed his eyes for a moment, and shook his head, clearly upset. Before he looked away, she could have sworn he whispered, “I’m sorry.”
Maia pushed herself up and wobbled on her feet. Feeling woozy, and hurting like hell, she staggered across the concrete towards a wooden fence. The sound of boots hitting the ground caught her attention. She glanced over her shoulder, and breathed in sharply as Tama advanced on her.
There was no one else behind him, only a dumpster and a few cars. They were alone, his mates gone like he’d promised.
Maia grabbed the fence and flung a leg over. An arm wrapped around her waist, dragging her back. Screaming, she struck out with her right elbow, hitting Tama in the ribs.
He swore, and let go. She lunged for the fence as something hit her back.
Tama spun her around, and flattened his bloodied knife against her left cheek. “Stop fightin’ me or I’ll stick ya again.”
Maia sucked in a breath. He’d stabbed her? But it had felt like a punch.
He kissed her roughly, suffocating her with the smell of booze and weed. Her tears mingled with the blood on her cheek as he tugged at her track pants.
Shouting erupted from the other side of the building. A dog barked, followed by the thud of boots and something scrambling across the concrete.
Tama glanced over his shoulder and hollered, “Fuck!” He pushed her aside and lunged for the fence.
As the large dog leapt at Tama, Maia collapsed in a heap.
Tama sprinted across Batton’s Place. He had a stitch in his side and he felt crook from running so hard.
When the police showed up behind the video store he’d hightailed it out of there. A couple of pigs had given chase, but he was too quick for the donut swirling brigade. He didn’t appreciate it, though, when that damn police dog attacked him. Stupid mutt got a boot in the face for his trouble. He’d never liked German Shepherds. Vicious shits.
Tama headed down his driveway. Shit, the lounge lights were on. Usually his mother was in bed by now. He didn’t have time to explain things. He needed to get in and out of the house fast. Grab some cash and clothes before the pigs showed up. He’d also wanted to do that with Maia. He would have been in and out in no time, just a regular quickie. She would have enjoyed it too, but the bloody stupid bitch didn’t know when to shut up and take it—all ten fucking inches. Well, he didn’t have to listen to her smart mouth anymore; there were plenty of other pretty girls he could get. That was, as long as the pigs didn’t get him first.
Out of breath, he stumbled up the porch steps, knocking over a pile of rubbish bags. Even before he opened the ranch-slider he could hear his mother’s voice. She was rambling to one of her spirit guides again, probably asking advice from the American Indian dude she’d tacked up on the wall. Pocahontas, or whatever name she called him. Nah, that was a chick in the cartoon his sister liked.
His mother smiled at him from the vinyl couch she thought he’d bought her. He’d told her countless times that it was from an inorganic collection, but she never remembered. Her mind hadn’t been right since his dad died in a car crash eight years ago. Since then, she’d gradually allowed her obsession with spirits, and other shit he didn’t believe in, to take over her mind. He had to admit her twice into the psych ward after her attempts at suicide. Each time he’d tried to reason with her, asking, “What was the point of havin’ spiritual guides if they didn’t help ya?” But she never answered the question.
She got off the couch, and walked towards him. She had mousy brown hair, a small nose and was short, only just reaching five-foot. But she was so proud of that last inch, lording it over her neighbour, Betsy Joy, who was four-foot-eleven.
Tama grinned as he pictured Betsy with her husband, big fat Bob the Blob. He’d always wondered how the hell the fat bastard could find his dick under all the blubber. Well, since Betsy was still alive he knew who went on top.
His mother’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts. “What’ve ya done, Son?”
He shook his head, trying to clear his mind. The shit he’d taken earlier was still fucking with his head. He looked back at his mother, who was staring at his hands and jeans. Her face appeared all puckered and creased as though she was going to cry.
“Why’s there blood on your hands?”
“Can’t talk now. Gotta get outta here before the pigs show up.”
“Whose blood is that?”
Grunting, he headed for his bedroom. He couldn’t let her distract him. The sirens in the distance were growing louder. Although it was the music of his neighbourhood, he knew the pigs would soon be performing in his dead-end street.
He kicked open his door, and switched on the light. The shit-brown curtains were closed and the room smelled of BO from the dirty clothes strewn over the floor. He’d shout at his mother for not cleaning it up if he wasn’t leaving for good. She worked as a cleaning lady, for Christ’s sake!
He snatched up his backpack off the floor and rifled through the wardrobe, stuffing clothes and shoes into it, then yanked open a drawer and grabbed his underwear and condoms. After pulling on his bag, he pushed past his mother and into her room, going straight for her jewellery box. He knew she stashed her grocery money there. Every Saturday he’d gotten into the habit of swiping some for booze.
She followed him. “No, boy, you can’t leave me.”
Without replying, he took the stash. Shit, he’d forgotten to wash his hands. Now there was blood on the money. He jammed it into his pocket and strode out of the room and into the bathroom. Soap and water soon removed the blood. He gave his face a quick rinse, then headed to his sister’s room and gave her a kiss. The little girl slept soundlessly under her pink Barbie duvet, her curly brown hair spread out on her pillow. Caitlin looked just like their mother; never going to win any beauty contests, but sweet nonetheless.
His mother grabbed his arm. “Please, Tama, don’t go.”
“Sorry, I hafta...”
She started sobbing. For fuck’s sake, she was giving him the guilts. He didn’t want to leave her alone to raise his half-sister. But then again, why should he blame himself? Yeah! It was his stepdad’s fault for going up north. The stupid git got thrown in the slammer. Unlike Seth, there was no way Tama was going to prison. He wouldn’t let the pigs catch him.
“I’ll visit when I can,” he added.
Her grip tightened. Dammit, she never listened. He shook her off, strode through to the dining-room, and yanked open the back ranch-slider. He could hear the sirens coming along Banks Street, almost at his road. He had to split. Now!
“Tama, don’t go!”
“Bye, Mum. Love ya.” He didn’t look back, just leapt over the railing that ran along the rear porch. He raced up the sloping backyard, clambered over the wire fence and onto the back of Claydon Primary School. The sirens were now playing their symphony down his street, the police lights providing special effects.
“Man, I need to piss,” he muttered, now regretting all the booze he’d drunk. Well, there was no way he’d risk stopping here. He sprinted across the grass and through a gate that led onto Finley Park.
Swings and slides filled the space behind Tama, while a network of playing fields lay before him. On his right, Auckland’s Sky Tower poked out from behind distant hills, the pointy structure bathed in mauve coloured lights. Beyond the park and a row of houses, the darkened waters of Manukau harbour merged with the night. Tama loved Finley Park. Ever since he was four he’d played touch rugby here, but much preferred the full on contact that came with the rugby matches held on Saturdays. Maia had ruined all of that for him now. No more rugby games. One stab wasn’t enough; he should have gutted the bitch.
He kept his eyes peeled for cops as he cut across the fields and over the road, past the Marae—the land where the Maori meeting house stood. Red stained carvings framed the triangular-shaped building, broken up blue and green Paua shells used for the eyes of the carved Maori faces. A naked, carved warrior, with a large head displaying a moko, stood at the apex. Tama ran a hand over his head, proud to show his heritage through his tattoo.
The street was dark, with hardly any lamp-posts to light up the night. For once the council’s cheap arse budget benefitted Tama, allowing him to take cover in the dark. He could just make out the road leading onto Jayden Green’s house. Good ole Jay would help him out, possibly giving him some cash or weed. Man, he wanted something harder to take off the edge. The cheap weed and beer he’d had earlier wasn’t enough for the excitement of the night.
Shit, he really needed to take a leak now or he’d be adding different bodily fluids to his jeans. He darted into the bushes, did the business, then took off down the dimly lit street. He ran past Jayden’s mouldy picket-fence, up the front steps of the square box his mate called home, and banged on the front door.
Lights went on, followed by shouting. “You fuckin’ answer it.” “No you.” “You effin’ ho.”
Tama looked at his neon watch. It was just past ten-thirty. Jayden and Leila were acting like two old farts going to bed so early. He sniggered. Maybe they hadn’t been sleeping.
A door slammed inside, followed by approaching footsteps. The front door creaked open a fraction.
Tama kicked it. “It’s me, fuckin’ open up.”
Jayden slipped the chain off and opened the door. He looked like he’d dressed hastily. The fly on his jeans was down, and he was shirtless, revealing a podgy gut and man boobs.
“Whatcha doin’ ‘ere?” Jayden asked. His eyes widened as he looked down at Tama’s blood stained pants. “Oh, shit, Tama, who’d ja cut?”
Tama pushed past and headed for the kitchen. After all that running, he was thirsty as hell.
Jayden grabbed his arm. Tama shook him off and opened the fridge. No matter how hard Jayden tried to appear tough he always looked comical. Except for being taller, and two shades lighter, his face looked just like Gary Coleman, with his wide nose, big lips, and fat cheeks. Tama had thought it was hilarious after he’d seen a rerun of Different Strokes a few months back, and had taken to teasing Jayden about it. Jayden would get mad and continually repeat, “I dunno who he iz.”
Tama took a can and sat down at the oval dining table. Jayden stood over him as he downed the beer. His mate looked like he was pouting and about to say, “What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?” It didn’t help Jayden’s case that his pronunciation was as poor as his pocket.
“For fuck’s sake! Answer me. Who’d ja cut?”
“Nike’s sister. Li’l bitch smart-mouthed me.”
Jayden’s hand swiped out, whacking Tama across the head. “Ya effin’ bastard. She’s just a kid.”
Tama jumped up and slammed him into the wall. “You fuckin’ touch me again, and I’ll waste ya.”
Jayden held his hands up. “Then I won’t help ya.”
“Whatever.” Tama pushed Jayden into the passage. “Just gimme some cash, weed, and a coat hanger, then I’ll shove off.”
Jayden glared at him. “Why should I fuckin’ give ya anything?”
Tama idly stroked the top of his switchblade. “Cos you’re my mate.”
Jayden’s gaze dropped to Tama’s hand. “You ain’t gonna cut me. Anyway, I’m skint. I can only give ya weed.”
Tama frowned. “Of course I ain’t gonna cut ya. Why would ja think that? You’re my mate.”
“You were strokin’ yo blade.”
“So? I stroke my dick too; don’t mean I stick it into every cunt I see.”
Jayden sniggered. “S’pose so.”
Something banged on the other side of the wall. Tama heard Leila’s voice, but couldn’t distinguish her words.
“What ‘bout Leila? She have any dough?” Tama asked.
Jayden grimaced. “Fuck no. She’s the reason I’m skint.”
Tama sighed. The weed would just have to do. He could always sell it if need be. “Gimme what ya got.”
The door next to them creaked open and a bleary eyed Leila poked her head out, her afro out of control. “Will ya shut the fuck up so I can sleep?” She closed the door without so much as a, “What’s that blood on your pants?” or “Do ya wanna cuppa?”
Tama never understood why a hot piece like Leila was with Jayden. Even worse, she married him. Who the hell got hitched at eighteen, other than the freak Nike? Yeah, Jayden was a nice bloke, but all his mate could do well was grow weed and fix cars. Everything else he failed miserably at, including in the bedroom. Tama had heard all about it from Leila when he popped in for his regular visits while Jayden was at work.
Jayden followed Leila into the bedroom.
“Bloody turn off the light,” Leila yelled.
Jayden countered with a “Bitch” then a moment later he was back, slamming the door shut behind him.
“You ain’t gettin’ any for that,” Leila shouted.
Jayden ignored her and handed Tama the coat hanger and a bag of weed.
Tama stuffed the weed into his backpack. He held onto the coat hanger as he slapped Jayden across the arm. “You’re a good mate.”
Jayden nodded. “Where ya headin’ to?”
Tama rolled his eyes. Although Jayden was big, he was a wimp when it came to standing up to Maia’s brother. Jayden had made the one mistake of teasing Nike about his name in ninth grade, calling him, “Sneaker Boy.” Nike had made him pay for it ever since. Tama remembered walking into the Men’s once and seeing Nike holding Jayden’s head in the toilet bowl, flushing it. Both Tama and Nike had left school for good that day with more than a few bruises.
“I ain’t tellin’ ya that. You’ll spill when Nike comes round.”
Jayden ran a hand over his head. “Shit, he’s gonna do his nut in. Ya better take off before he finds out.”
Tama gave Jayden another friendly slap on the arm and strode towards the front door. He stepped outside and pumped his fists together in a gang salute. Jayden returned the gesture.
Tama took off, sprinting up the road. A parked Mazda caught his eye. He bent the coat hanger, angled it through the top of the window and down to hook it under the lock. In no time he was in the car working at the wires.
The car refused to start. Tama swore, realising it was just a wreck. In the distance sirens blared. He didn’t have time for this. He wanted to go to the real north, not some fucking prison.
Tama grabbed his bag and took off running, wishing he’d stabbed Maia’s brother instead. He hated the bastard! Nike thought he was better than him, that he wasn’t worth shit. Tama slowed to a stop. Nike would come after him regardless, whether he went to Kaitaia or Timbuktu. It may take a while, but Nike would eventually catch up with him. The bastard was like that, never able to let something go. No, he couldn’t leave until he’d taken care of Nike. Plus, Nike’s wife was pretty. God, he liked Jess, always had. She should have been his, not that prick’s. Yeah, he could also take care of Jess in a totally different way.
Sweat glistened across Nike’s chest. He grabbed Jess’s hips, scared that if she went any faster he’d shoot his load. He didn’t want to come yet; he wanted to make it last as long as possible. But fuck, she wasn’t helping. She just kept swaying her hips back and forth making his dick want to explode.
Jess gazed down at him with hooded eyes, her dark mascara and eyeliner smeared. He wiped it with a thumb and kissed her lips, loving the taste of the strawberry gloss. He wondered whether he could put it on her other lips and lick it off.
His hands moved back to her hips as she picked up speed. “Slower,” he gasped.
“No, I need it now.” Her voice was breathless, needy.
He tightened his grip. “I wanna make it last.”
A playful smile spread across her face as her fingers went for his ribs. Nike let go and grabbed her wrists, pulling her against his chest. She nuzzled into his neck, her lips working their way up to his left ear. He groaned as her body rocked against his. No longer able to control himself, he rolled her onto her back and started pumping fast, pistoning in and out, harder and harder.
Jess cried out, “Yessss ... fuck, yesssss!”
Her body clamped down, milking him for all he was worth. Nike closed his eyes as bliss overtook his body.
After the last pump, he withdrew and flopped onto his back. Jess got up and gingerly ran off to the shower, cupping herself so that his seed didn’t spill out. Nike couldn’t be arsed having a shower, he just wanted to sleep.
Water splashed in the next room. He imagined Jess lathering up her gorgeous tits. His balls tingled. He thought about it running over her plump arse, more than a handful. His cock began to harden. His baby had back alright, just the way he liked it. He didn’t like skinny chicks. They looked too brittle for a good fuck.
Jess started singing. Nike closed his eyes and grinned as she butchered a Beyoncé song. Jess thought she could sing because she scored well in Playstation’s karaoke games. He’d told her enough times that the machine was tone deaf, but she didn’t believe him.
Loud rap music started up from a neighbouring flat followed by a baby’s cries. Nike’s eyes snapped open, fucked off that the new neighbours had woken Jake again. He’d spoken to them only an hour ago.
He swung his legs out of bed, snatched up his briefs, and pulled them on. The phone went off. He grabbed it. “What?”
The sound of his mother crying made him straighten, her sobs drowning out her words.
“Mum, calm down. I can’t understand you.”
His stepdad’s raspy voice came over the line. “Maia’s been stabbed,” Rory said. “We’re at the hospital.”
Nike opened his mouth, but nothing came out. In the next room, the shower turned off followed by cupboards being opened and closed. Who would stab his li’l sis? She was just a kid.
Rory answered his unspoken question, “Tama did it.”
Nike gripped the phone. That fucker! He was going to kill him. The sick bastard was always harassing Maia for sex. Nike froze. Oh God, no ... did Tama rape her?
Jess walked in naked, with her hair wrapped in a towel and growling about the neighbours. In a daze, Nike watched her pull open a drawer. It scraped and got stuck halfway. She swore and yanked it open.
“You there, Nike?” Rory asked.
Nike snapped to. “How bad?”
“We don’t know. She’s still in surgery.”
“Did he...” Nike’s voice broke. “Did he rape her?”
“The cops only said she was stabbed.”
Jess’s head whipped around at Nike’s words. She walked towards him, her heavy breasts swaying. An uninvited trickle of breast milk glistened on her caramel-coloured skin. “What’s happened?” she asked.
“I’ll be there soon.” Nike hung up. “Maia’s been stabbed. I’ve gotta go.”
Jess stood still for a moment, her face shocked. “I’m comin’ too.”
“No, you stay with Jakey.” Nike ran into the bathroom. He could hear her rifling through the wardrobe as he took off his briefs and stepped into the shower.
After a quick clean, he grabbed fresh briefs and hopped into them, then threw on a shirt, his black courier jacket, and the jeans off the floor.
“I told ja to stay put,” he snapped as Jess grabbed her purse. He loved her, but shit, the woman never listened.
“I’ll get Jakey.” She ran out of the room.
Nike jammed his feet into his boots and shoved his wallet into his back pocket. He didn’t have time to argue. Anyway, he knew it would do no good. Since meeting Jess three years ago, at the age of fifteen, he’d found out that she was an expert at getting her own way.
He strode down the passage and into the small lounge. On the other side of the wall the rap music blared loudly, shaking the cheap shelves that Nike had haphazardly nailed up. Jake continued to cry as Jess pulled him out of his cot.
Nike grabbed his keys off the wall and opened the ranch-slider for Jess and Jake, then locked up. They headed for the yellow courier van. Jess put Jake in his car-seat, while Nike revved up the engine. As soon as she was in he took off towards the hospital.
Middleton hospital—Nike hated the place. He’d been in there enough times to know. Nothing too serious: a broken nose, arm, finger and toe, a stabbed arm, and when he was four, a piece of Lego stuck up his nose. He’d jammed the stormtrooper helmet pretty far.
The Middleton waiting room was just like any other hospital. There was a lot of waiting, waiting, and ... more waiting. They’d been there since eleven and it was now going on midnight. Maia was still in surgery. The bastard Tama had stabbed her between the shoulder blades. His mother said Maia had come in without any breathing problems, so it looked like the knife hadn’t pierced her lungs. The police had left before Nike had gotten there, asked all the questions they could. Nike didn’t want them here anyway. They needed to get out there and look for Tama, just like he would once he knew his sister was going to pull through.
Nike pulled out a 7-up from the vending machine, and sat down next to Jess. Jake lay snuggled under a baby blanket, suckling from her breast. Nike opened the can, and took a swig, while he eyeballed the back of Rory’s bald head. His forty-year-old stepdad was sitting a few seats away, busy on his iPhone. Rory was addicted to the internet and was on it for most of the day. Nike didn’t understand why his mother put up with him. What kind of man sent his woman out to work while he sat on his arse? A fucking lazy one.
Nike glanced at his mother. She was pacing in front of the nurses’ station, her gaze following every doctor who walked past. She was overweight and had bad eczema around her mouth. As usual, he thought she looked exhausted, much older than her thirty-eight years. At times he worried that she was going to end up like his nanna, dying before she hit forty.
Nike stuck the can under his seat and went over to her. He knew she was working herself up, and wanted to calm her down before she brought on an asthma attack.
A doctor in blue scrubs came out of the corridor. He had a young face that contrasted with his short grey hair. He smiled at Nike’s mother. “The surgery went well. No vital organs were hit. We’d like to keep Maia in for a few days, and as long as all goes well, she should make a full recovery in a few weeks. A counsellor will be assigned—”
Rory stood up. “Why does she need a counsellor? You said she’d be fine. I’m not paying for a quack.”
Nike couldn’t believe his stepdad’s nerve. As if Rory paid for jack.
“Sir, it won’t cost you a cent,” the doctor said. “The country has free healthcare.”
“I still don’t want Maia seeing no quack. I don’t trust them after...” He glanced at Nike’s mother with a strained expression.
Nike felt his anger quickly dissolve. He now realised why his stepdad was getting uptight, and he couldn’t blame him. A counsellor at Claydon High had upset his mother, telling her she was a bad parent because Maia skipped school. If that wasn’t bad enough, the prick reported her to Child Welfare. For three weeks, she worried whether they were going to take Maia away from her. In the end she received a letter stating that the case was closed, and a list of counsellors that could “help Maia with her emotional problems.”
“She will be assigned a qualified professional,” the doctor said. “With these sorts of injuries the psychological wound also needs to be looked at. Quite often they are harder to heal.”
Nike patted Rory’s arm. “The counsellors here are fine. I had one when I wuz stabbed, and she helped me.”
Rory’s gaze shifted from the doctor to Nike. “I just want Maia to be alright.”
His mother gave Rory a hug. “I know you do, love.”
“Can we see her?” Rory asked the doctor.
“She’s sleeping at the moment, but you can still go in,” the doctor replied. “A nurse will take you through.” He indicated towards the reception desk, then excused himself and left.
Nike called out to Jess. “Babe, we’re gonna see Maia. You comin’?”
She shook her head. “Jakey’s just fallen asleep. I’ll pop in before we leave.”
Nike nodded, and followed the others to the desk. A nurse in a lavender uniform directed them to his sister’s bedside. Maia was lying on her side asleep and covered with a blanket, the steady beating of her heart displayed on the monitor next to her bed.
Nike had been dreading that something like this would happen. Ever since their dad had moved to Australia a few months back, Maia had been acting up. His mother had asked him to have a talk with her. He’d tried, but all Maia did was shrug and grin like she thought everything was funny.
His mother wiped her eyes. “I should’ve taken her to that party,” she whispered.
Both Nike and Rory went to put an arm around her shoulder.
Rory moved his hand down to her waist. “No, love, you did the right thing. If she’d just listened, and stayed home, this wouldn’t have happened.”
Nike frowned. “She shouldn’t have snuck out, but it’s still Tama’s fault. After I leave I’m gonna—”
His mother looked up. “Please don’t go after him, Son.”
“No buts, Nike!”
Her gaze fell to Maia. His sister continued to sleep, undisturbed by his mother’s sudden outburst.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to shout.” She turned to Nike with a worried expression. “But I know what you’re thinking, and your family needs you here, not in jail. Please promise me that you won’t go after him.”
Nike knew he couldn’t do that. He gazed down at his sister. For her sake he needed to take care of Tama. And quick.
“Bye, love.” “Bye, babe.” “Bye, Mum.”
All the men she loved had eventually said, “Bye.” Gareth, Seth, now Tama. Janice wanted to weep. She couldn’t do without her boy. He looked after her and helped out with Caitlin. He was also her only link to her dead husband. God, she’d loved his father. The police came then too; told her Gareth had been killed by a drunk driver who’d driven down the wrong side of the motorway.
The men in blue also came for her second husband. Seth had struck Jason Beadle, a neighbour from across the street. Jason died from that one punch. Manslaughter they said before locking Seth away. But it wasn’t his fault. Seth was protecting his family. Jason had called her a nutter, and had threatened to get Caitlin taken away.
Now the cops wanted Tama.
“Ma’am ... Did you hear me?”
“What?” She looked at the male and female officers standing on the other side of the coffee table. Hadn’t they left? She was sure they’d left.
Her gaze shifted to the large scar underneath the policeman’s chin. She remembered him. Hated him. He was the officer who’d taken Seth away.
“Please, Ma’am, we need to know where your son is.”
Janice pressed her lips together.
The man sighed and looked at his partner. Janice’s attention shifted to Tivo. Her spirit guide was standing next to the butch-looking policewoman, his gaunt face framed by long black hair. Tama would constantly question her about Tivo, often asking why he was American Indian, and that it would make more sense if she had “made” him Maori. But she couldn’t change Tivo’s nationality. He was real.
Clad in a tasselled buckskin shirt and leggings, Tivo’s form wavered, then disappeared.
“Don’t go,” she cried. “Please come back.”
The female officer raised an eyebrow. “Ma’am, I’m not leaving.” She walked around the coffee table and sat down on the couch. “We will find your son. But you have to help us. Give us his friends’ addresses.”
Thank God the woman had thought she’d spoken to her. After the incident with Jason Beadle, she had tried so hard not to speak to Tivo in front of strangers.
Her hands began to shake.
Caitlin wiggled on Janice’s lap. She looked confused, her little snubbed-nose turned up even more. “Mummy, Mummy, why you c-c-c-cold? It’s not-not c-c-cold.”
Caitlin’s stuttering and word repetition was a constant concern for Janice, as her daughter regularly came home from school in tears. In the past week, Caitlin had stopped talking at school, too afraid of being bullied. Janice had an appointment to see her teacher the following day to discuss it, but didn’t want to go. It terrified her. She could only talk to her family and Betsy without feeling overwhelmed.
“I just need you to hug me tighter, sweetie,” Janice said.
Caitlin gripped onto Janice’s dressing gown, and squeezed.
“Ma’am, can you please give us his friend’s addresses,” the female officer asked. “It’s imperative that we find Tama.”
“G-G-Go away!” Caitlin cried. She leaned into Janice, squashing her teddy bear between them. Caitlin didn’t like the police, blaming them for taking her daddy.
Janice smoothed down Caitlin’s hair, and glared at the woman. “You’re upsetting my daughter. Please leave.”
“We need the addresses.”
“I don’t know them!” Janice didn’t care that it was a lie. The police weren’t here to help her. They just wanted to hurt Tama, like they did Seth. Bastards handcuffed Seth in front of his own daughter. Of course he was going to fight back; no one wants to go to jail.
“I said, leave!” Janice clamped her eyes shut.
She heard the policewoman sigh. “We’re sorry that we’ve upset you, Ma’am. We will be in contact when we have more info on your son.”
Footsteps receded. Janice opened her eyes as the ranch-slider closed. She leaned back into the vinyl couch Tama had bought her. The cops were wrong about her boy. He was a good kid—considerate to a fault. He was always buying her expensive gifts like the 40-inch flat-screen telly in the corner. She was shocked when Jayden and Tama carried it in one day. It must have cost Tama an arm and a leg. But he’d been really modest about it, saying, “It wuz nuthin’, Mum, just a five finger discount.” Janice didn’t know what sort of special that was, but it must have been great as those tellies cost well over two grand.
A rat-a-tat-tat on the ranch-slider made Janice jump. Brown curtains blocked her view of the front porch. Was it the cops again?
She squeezed Caitlin tighter.
“Ow!” Caitlin yelped.
Janice loosened her grip. “Sshh ... Sorry, baby, Mummy didn’t mean to hurt you.”
The rapping grew louder. The door wasn’t locked. Janice started to rock Caitlin back and forth.
She couldn’t do this alone. “Tivo, please come back. I need you. Please...” She sniffled. “I’m sorry that I ignored you before. But they would’ve put me in the psyche ward. I need to be with Caitlin. Please listen...”
Tivo shouldn’t have left her. She didn’t have a choice. Plus, she’d sacrificed taking her pills for him. Even though her medication calmed her, they had nasty side effects. They made her sleepy and hungry as well as vanquishing all her spirit guides. She couldn’t give up Tivo. Out of all her spirit guides he was her favourite—he kept her sane and stopped her from feeling lonely.
Her doctor diagnosed her as schizophrenic. Janice disagreed, saying she didn’t have different personalities. He explained this was a common misconception and that schizophrenia caused her memory lapses, paranoia, anxiety, fear of people, and hallucinations. She had gotten mad with him when he’d said her spirit guides weren’t real. How would he know? He didn’t see them.
Betsy’s voice snapped her out of her thoughts. “Jan, open up!”
Caitlin tried to wiggle out of Janice’s grip. “Besy, Besy, Besy...”
Relieved, Janice let go. Caitlin jumped off her lap, ran to the ranch-slider, and opened it.
Betsy stepped inside. Her tiny figure was wrapped in a teal dressing gown and her curly black hair piled high in a tidy bun. She looked much younger than her thirty-eight years, and showed no signs of having had six children.
Janice wished she had a large family like Betsy. But with what had happened to her husbands, she realised that having more children was unlikely.
“Why were the cops here?” Betsy asked.
Caitlin stamped a foot. “Meanies-meanies w-w-want Tama.”
Betsy’s eyes widened. “Why? What did he do?”
Janice slumped further into the couch and covered her face.
Betsy sat down next to her, and hooked an arm over her shoulder. “Tell me what happened.”
“They said he stabbed Maia Daniels.”
Betsy gasped. “Nike’s sister?”
Janice nodded and wiped her nose on the back of her arm. “The Daniels always cause trouble for Tama. He ran. Poor kid’s probably scared half out of his wits.”
Betsy hugged Janice. “You should be with someone, Jan. Come over. I’ll make up a bed for you and Caitlin.”
Janice shook her head. “No, I need to stay here. Take Caitlin. I don’t want the cops coming back for her.”
“Why would they take her?”
Caitlin started screaming, “No, No! Pigs b-bad-bad.”
Janice stared at her daughter in surprise, wondering who had taught Caitlin that name. Janice never called the police pigs.
Caitlin took off outside. Betsy jumped up and rushed after her. Caitlin was fast. Even though her daughter was only five, Janice still found it hard to catch her. With Betsy’s small legs, she knew her neighbour would find it difficult too.
Janice’s hands began to shake again. Betsy could take care of Caitlin; Janice desperately needed a drink—even the pills would do—anything to calm her nerves. She stood up and shuffled over the worn-out carpet and into the kitchen. On her tiptoes, she opened the cupboard above the bread bin and sifted through the packets of pills. A few dropped onto the bench in front of the knife block.
Janice’s eyes locked onto the knives. Tama liked knives. He whittled wood and carved. She’d bought him a carving kit for his seventeenth birthday, and had given him money for his eighteenth for a new knife. She pulled out her necklace and looked at the koru he’d made for mother’s day. He’d said that the curled fern symbolised new life and peace, as well as representing his love for her.
Her daughter started screaming again. She moved the curtains and peered through the window. Betsy had Caitlin in a tight embrace. She always thought Betsy was a good mother. Her friend was a confident lady, always able to stand up against anyone that upset her children. It didn’t matter that she was tiny; Betsy would barge into any neighbour’s house and demand an apology if someone had upset one of her darlings. Betsy had no fear. Janice had nothing but fear.
She continued to watch as Betsy calmed Caitlin down. Caitlin would be better off with Betsy. She would protect her. If Tama had been Betsy’s child she would have protected him too.
Janice focused on the knives again. Like Tama, they fascinated her. Although they hurt, bliss always followed after she passed out. No more thought, no more pain. She ran a shaky finger across the thick scars on her left arm, starting from her wrist and running up a few inches. She’d slashed them twice, but each time Tama had been there for her. He’d wrapped her wrists with his shirt and called an ambulance. She wished he was here now.
She pulled out a knife from the block and ran a finger across the metal.
Shit, Jayden’s weed was great. It gave him the giggles, like a fucking little girl. Tama knew he should’ve kept it to sell, but couldn’t hold off toking the smoke. Or was that smoking the toke? Fuck knows! He just knew he felt awesome.
He continued giggling as he staggered down the road. He’d given up hiding. No one was looking for him at this time of morning anyway. Plus, Nike could wait a few hours. Why hurry? He most certainly didn’t want to rush his plans for Nike’s fucking gorgeous wifey. Ooh ... he liked Jess—a lot. He was so going to enjoy her. No quickie there. Yeah!
“Don’t stop ‘til you get enough,” he sang. He grabbed his crotch, did a Michael Jackson yell, then twirled around and arsed over.
He laughed as he pushed himself up off the grass, and headed towards Mikey’s place. His cuz lived a few blocks from Jayden. The area was pretty much the same, filled with crappy houses that moulded up during winter and were toasters during summer. Mikey was the only child of his dad’s little sister. Though little could hardly describe his Aunty Trina; instead she was one big mother—
Tama jumped at the blast of a siren. It sounded about a block away. He took shelter under a tree. “Mofuckin’ pigs, don’t they ever sleep?” he muttered.
The siren gradually moved away. Tama relaxed and took another hit of his joint as he squinted up the street. Man, Claydon was dark at night. He’d been to Remuera, the snobby side of Auckland, and the streets there were lit up like a Christmas tree. Got a great present too, but almost got caught when the owners came home. Lucky he and Jayden were on their way out. Shoved that 40-inch telly into the back of Jayden’s van so fast they nearly busted the damn thing. But it had been worth the trouble just to see his mother happy.
He would miss her a helluva lot. He felt bad that he didn’t give her a proper goodbye before the pigs showed up. But he couldn’t risk going to anal central. Soap was slippery stuff and his arse was way too pretty.
But what’s to say he couldn’t visit her every so often. Or she could catch a bus up north with Caitlin and they could make a nice home in Kaitaia. He’d support them by selling his carvings and growing a marijuana patch like his uncle. That would be way cool. All natural living, yeah!
Someone coughed further down the street. Tama watched as a figure holding a bottle staggered towards him. He’d love some booze. Maybe they also had some cash.
Tama pulled out his switchblade. He started giggling then stopped himself. Didn’t want to warn the dude ... or chick? Wouldn’t it be cool if it was a chick—booze, cash, and a screw all in one hit.
As the figure came closer Tama let out a disappointed grunt. It was no chick, it was bloody Aroha Summers. He would never dip his wick into that. Her name meant unconditional love alright; she gave out to too many guys. If he did put it in, no doubt he’d get unconditional disease.
Well, maybe it wasn’t a total loss. She could still have some cash.
Aroha squealed. The bottle slipped out of her hand and smashed on the concrete.
“You stupid bitch, why’d ja do that for?”
“Tama?” Aroha moved closer.
She wasn’t half bad looking for an old bird. Forty or so, give or take a few years. She had nasty-arse hair though, didn’t look like it ever saw a brush. She smelt too, and not from the piss she’d been drinking either.
Tama covered his nose. “Yeah ... got any cash?”
“Nah, forgot my purse.”
“Well, you’re bloody useless, no cash or alcohol, bugger off.” Tama waved his hand.
Aroha stayed rooted to the spot, her eyes taking in every inch of his body. She licked her lips. Tama cringed and took a step back. No way was he letting her near him. He didn’t even want to contaminate his knife let alone his dick. He closed his switchblade and pocketed it.
Aroha coughed and hit her chest. “Heard you cut Nike’s sister.”
Tama perked up. It felt good to be talked about. “Yeah ... who told you?”
“A few guys I know. They also said your boys got nicked.”
Tama’s face dropped. God, he hoped Mikey wasn’t one of them. He felt bad for the others, but Mikey was blood. He’d also promised his aunty that he wouldn’t get him into trouble. Shit, he shouldn’t have split without making sure the boy was alright first.
“What about Mikey?”
“Heard nuthin’ ‘bout him, but Naf, Corey, and Trey were all pinched by the coppers.”
Tama let out a relieved sigh. The old bird had him going there for a moment. Mikey must have gotten away with Sledge. The kid made him proud. Fast like Tama. Plus, the other guys could handle one night in the slammer. Unlike Mikey, who’d never been arrested, they were used to the rap. As long as they didn’t do anything too bad they knew they’d be out the next day, and since they hadn’t touched Maia the pigs had nothing on them.
Aroha smiled. “You wanna come to my place?”
Tama shuddered. He could imagine what it looked like, just as scabby as she was, and probably stunk as well.
“Nah, got places to go.”
“Oh, come on, honeybuns. I won’t tell anyone.” She took a step forward. “You can stay as long as you like.”
He backed up into the tree.
“And I heard you’re real big.” She licked her lips and extended a hand towards his crotch.
“Don’t touch me!” He sidestepped her and took off at a run.
“I’ll pay ya!”
Yeah, with crabs. Tama kept on running.
Tama was annoyed with himself. He should have known Mikey hadn’t gone home. Hell, why would he? He didn’t stay at his for more than a few minutes. Plus, if he lived with his Aunty Trina he would have split ages ago. She was one scary mother. Poor kid was probably more afraid of his mother’s reaction than being hauled in by the pigs.
Sheesh, his aunty looked like she was going to belt him round the head. He’d take it too. He deserved it for not taking care of Mikey.
“Get in here now, you little bastard.” Aunty Trina grabbed Tama’s ear and pulled him inside. She was the same height and twice as wide as him. All the women on his dad’s side were fat Amazons.
She slammed the door behind her and hauled his sorry arse over to the couch.
Tama clutched her hand to stop her from yanking his bloody ear off. “Ow, ow, ow... let up, Aunty, I didn’t mean to get Mikey into shit. It wuz that fuckin’ bitch’s fault.”
Her hand whipped out so fast that Tama didn’t see it, but sure as hell felt the result. Bloody stung like fuck. Tama grabbed his left cheek.
“Watch your dirty mouth, boy,” she snapped. “Sit.” She pointed to the couch.
He slumped down onto the flowery cushions. He should have gone straight to Nike’s instead. But no ... he had to get a frigging conscience and want to check that his cuz was alright. Dumbarse.
“The police turned up looking for Michael. Said you stabbed Maia Daniels. Is that true?”
No way did he want another slap. He’d lie through his teeth to get out of it. “I didn’t mean too. She fell on it.”
“Do you think I’m stupid?” Aunty Trina crossed her flabby arms over her bulbous breasts.
“No,” he replied, wishing she’d put on a dressing-gown over her nightie.
Tama shrank into the couch as she raised a hand. She covered her mouth and yawned. He never liked visiting his aunty. She scared the living crap out of him. It was probably why Mikey hung out with him so much. It also made sense why the kid followed instructions without complaining. Get slapped enough times and you soon learned to shut your mouth.
“She wuz taunting us. And Mikey’s done nuthin’ wrong. The pigs...” He hesitated as her eyes narrowed. “I mean, the cops have nuthin’ on him. He’ll be fine.”
Not wanting to antagonise her more, he averted his gaze and gave the room a once over. Although far from delicate, his aunty liked pretty things. He could easily imagine her stuff fitting right into Buckingham Palace, from the crystal birds on the mantelpiece to the gilded frames decorating the walls, and the fancy couch with its curved feet. Plus, she sure was the queen bitch of Claydon.
“Tamati, look at me!”
He peered up at her.
Her angry face puckered. “He’s only fourteen. You were supposed to look after him. I want you to find my boy and bring him back home. I’ll deal with the police.”
Tama scratched his ear. “Sure, Aunty, no probs.” He yawned and glanced at the clock on the DVD player. Was that one or two o’clock? He couldn’t tell; his eyes were playing tricks on him. He must have smoked too much weed. The stuff was also giving him the munchies, and he needed to take a crap.
“I’m hungry, Aunty. Can I eat first and take a shi...? I mean, can I use your toilet...” He swallowed as she glared at him. “Please?”
She stared at his jeans with a look of distaste. “Yes, and go have a shower too. You stink to high heaven. Change your clothes. I’ll give those jeans a scrub and throw some food together.”
Tama sniffed under his arms. He didn’t think he stunk. It was just a little BO mixed in with the smell of dried blood and weed. Still, it was nice of her to offer. More than he expected.
“Ta, Aunty.” He got up and headed for the bathroom, stripped off his clothes, and threw them in the passageway for her to clean. He closed the door, took a crap then got into the shower.
The water felt great against his skin. He stood for a while, just soaking up the warmth. He hadn’t noticed how much his muscles ached before. The weed should’ve given him a high for a few hours, not wear off so damn quick. Maybe Jayden’s stuff wasn’t so shit hot.
He moved his hand over his cock, giving it more attention than was required. His mind shifted to Jess, the memory of feeling her up at school making him hard. She’d put up a good fight, but he’d still managed to get a hand down her knickers. So moist. Oh God, that did it. He laughed as he scored the shower door.
After cleaning himself up, he dressed and headed into the kitchen. A plate of sandwiches awaited him on the bench. He dumped his bag and grabbed one, stuffing the whole thing into his mouth in one hit. He screwed up his nose. Bloody marmalade. The hoity-toity bitch. Next she’d be serving him fucking cucumber sandwiches. All he wanted was some decent grub, like peanut butter or Marmite and chip sandwiches. His stomach growled so he kept on chewing.
His aunty entered the kitchen and opened up the fridge. She pulled out a Coke and handed it to him.
He swallowed down the rest of the disgusting sandwich and pulled the tab back. “Ta, Aunty.” He gulped it down then let out a belch.
She gave him a disgusted look, then walked over to the table and pulled out a chair. The wood creaked as she sat down. Tama was amazed it could hold her.
A short burst of noise came from down the road. He knew the sound well. It was the pigs telling a motorist to get the fuck out of their way.
“You didn’t... Didja?” he asked his aunty.
“You know I wouldn’t call the police, Tamati. You’re my nephew.”
Tama wasn’t sure whether he should believe her. Her face looked more guilty than indignant, and her voice didn’t sound right either. He pulled his bag on, unsure whether to bolt or stay. The pigs could just be driving past; it didn’t mean they were coming here. He moved towards the back door, his fingers itching, his mind wrestling with him. He’d been in the shower for far too long—maybe fifteen minutes. That would be enough time for her to call and get them here. But she was family, why would she dob him in?
Tama listened carefully. The sound of tyres on gravel came from the front of the house, followed by doors closing.
“Shit!” He opened the back door, jumped down the stairs, and sprinted across the small backyard, almost tripping up on the garden hose. He threw his bag over the fence and scaled it. Behind him he could hear boots hitting the driveway and a dog barking.
“Come back, Tamati. You’re making things worse by running,” Aunty Trina shouted.
Tama felt like absolute crap. How could she do this to him? If their positions were swapped he would never have done that to her. No matter how much he disliked his aunty she was still blood—his whānau.
A police dog clawed at the fence. The animal’s barks combined with the policemen’s shouts spurred Tama forward. He grabbed his bag, and sprinted for holy hell.
A female voice yelled at Maia to shut up. Maia stopped screaming and opened her eyes. Her heart was racing. She tried to focus on what was in front of her. There was a pale green curtain partially pulled across, and a basin and cabinet to her left. Where was she and where had Tama gone? She closed her eyes and quickly reopened them, making sure that Tama wasn’t there. He’d been forcing himself onto her, his mouth and hands everywhere. But that hadn’t happened. It was just a dream.
She grimaced as she tried to sit up. Her back throbbed, and her stomach felt even worse. She pushed the covers off to see what was holding her down. Velcro straps lay across her mid-section. With a quick rip they were off, and she pushed up with an elbow. Pain hit her between the shoulder-blades, causing her to holler.
“Don’t you ever shut the fuck up?” a girl snapped.
Maia turned around slowly. Natural light shone through a window at the far end of the room. Hospital beds filled with female patients were placed in a row, and a god-awful smell of cleaning fluid was making her want to chunder. In the next bed, a girl no older than eighteen glared back. Tufts of blonde hair poked out from the top of her bandaged head, her face cut up and bruised.
Maia winced. Something was stuck to her back. She wanted to rip it off, but knew it would cause more pain.
“You don’t hafta be a bitch,” Maia snapped.
The girl pointed at her bandages. “I’m not about to thank you for making my head feel worse, am I? Duh.”
A wide grin spread across the girl’s face, replacing her scowl. “How’d ja know my name?”
Maia stared at her. What was the girl’s damage?
The girl continued, undisturbed by Maia’s sour expression. “My boyfriend calls me Bitch, but my name’s Stella. What’s yours?”
“Maia,” she replied, begrudgingly.
Stella pushed off her blankets, and swung two of the skinniest, lily-white legs Maia had ever seen out of bed.
“My man bashed me for cheating on him,” Stella said. “What happened to you?”
Careful not to aggravate her back, Maia slowly moved her feet out. “I...” She stopped as an image of Tama with his bloodied knife came to mind. God, he’d actually stabbed her. It just felt so unreal. Yeah, he threatened her before, but it had been sexual in nature, not an attempt on her life.
Tears began to form. Embarrassed, she wiped them away.
“It’s alright,” Stella said. “I cried too when I woke up. Did your man do it?”
My man? How old does she think I am?
“Sssshhh,” came from across the room.
“Shuddup, you old cow,” Stella hollered.
Maia glanced at the woman in the opposite bed. She looked about seventy, with the typical wrinkle and grey hair gig going on that old people seemed to be good at. She also had a nasty expression directed at them. Unlike Stella, who had nothing colourful surrounding her, the woman had vases filled with carnations and roses on her cabinets. Someone loves her, Maia thought.
Maia wondered where her own family was. Did they know she’d been attacked? No doubt her poor mum would be worried sick that she’d taken off. God, she was going to be in so much trouble.
Stella sneered at the old woman then turned back to Maia. “Well? What happened?”
“I got stabbed.”
“Shit … whatcha do for that to happen?”
“I didn’t do anything. I wuz attacked cos of my brother.”
“What did your brother do? And, who was the prick that stabbed ya?”
“None of your business.”
“Sheesh, you don’t hafta get shitty ‘bout it.”
Maia sighed. “Yeah, sorry. Just…” She looked down, her mind going to Mikey. She still couldn’t believe what Tama had done, but what hurt more was Mikey’s part in it.
“You alright, love?”
Maia shook her head.
“You want me to call a nurse?”
“No.” She didn’t want any medicine. Antibiotics always made her feel sick. She gently lowered herself onto her feet.
“You don’t look too good,” Stella said. “Nuthin’ some drugs won’t fix though. You sure you don’t want a nurse? It’s like room service here, but you get drugs as well as food.”
“No thanks.” Maia stopped, momentarily distracted by the girl’s badly scabbed arms.
Stella jumped out of bed. “Whatcha starin’ at?”
Maia jerked back. Oh God, she was definitely going to puke. She went to leave.
Stella blocked her path, her pixie-like face now aggressive. “Don’t you walk away from me, I wanna...” She stopped mid-sentence and swore loudly as Maia threw up on her.
Jess lay asleep with an arm slung across Nike’s chest. Nike carefully moved it and slipped out of bed, yawning as he headed for the shower. Last night he’d wanted to search for Tama, but Jess had insisted that he get some sleep first. In the end he’d relented, because he’d been far too upset and tired to have argued his point.
After a quick clean, he got dressed and headed out to the van. It felt colder than normal; the first sign that winter was just around the corner. A breeze picked up, blowing leaves across the driveway. He zipped up his jacket and unlocked the driver’s side. The neighbour’s chihuahua started barking and clawing at the wooden fence. Nike hopped in, fired up the engine, and backed out.
As he turned onto Parson’s Road a gull flew past, its loud squawks breaking the early morning silence. The bird soared over the Maori meeting house, and towards the calm waters of the harbour. Nike smiled at the sight of the triangular-shaped building, the elaborate red framework adding to its appeal. Last month he’d slipped a ring onto Jess’s finger underneath the entrance’s carved warrior. His mates all thought he was nuts for getting married so young, but he couldn’t have been happier with his decision.
He steered the van into Cedrick Place and parked alongside Leila’s box-like house. Except for a red Mazda the road looked deserted. A few trees brightened up the sidewalk with a colourful array of autumn leaves. Leila’s silver Suzuki sat underneath her carport, blocked in by a battered blue van.
Nike knocked on the front door, hoping that his ex didn’t answer. Swearing started up inside, soon followed by footsteps. The door creaked open and Leila poked her head out, her afro out of control.
Her eyes widened. “Whatcha doin’ here?” she hissed. “I told ja to email me back if you wanted to get together.” She pulled up the strap on her nightie and glanced over her shoulder. “Gimme fifteen minutes, and I’ll meet ya at Claydon Beach.”
It pissed Nike off that she assumed he was there for sex. He was sick of her dirty emails, and had told her enough times to quit sending them. Although Leila obviously didn’t have a problem with cheating on Jayden, he could never do that to Jess.
He jammed his foot into the doorway as Leila went to close it. “I ain’t here for you,” he said, irritably. “I wanna talk to Jayden.”
Her face dropped. “You’re not gonna tell him about my emails ... are you?”
“No, I need to know where Tama is.”
She looked at him suspiciously. “Why the fuck do ya wanna know that for?”
“He stabbed Maia.”
Leila’s eyebrows shot up. “He what? Is she alright?”
“She will be.”
“Jay didn’t tell me,” she muttered, looking annoyed.
“So ... You gonna let me in?”
“Sure.” Leila opened the door wider.
Nike stepped inside. The lounge looked different from how he remembered it—better. Although the beige couch was now stained and tatty, the shelves were no longer lined with bottles, and the smell of beer had died along with Leila’s mother. He’d heard that liver disease had finally taken her, no doubt caused by all the booze she’d poured down her throat. Such a shame. He’d liked Leila’s mum, she’d been a friendly lush.
“Jay, Nike’s here,” Leila shouted.
Nike walked past Leila and headed for her old bedroom. There was no way Jayden would come out for him. In school he’d made the guy’s life miserable, pushing his head into toilets and knocking him about. Yeah, his temper had been bad back then. But the creep deserved it for knocking up his cousin.
“Nike!” Leila followed. “You can’t go in there.”
Nike opened the door and was greeted with a stunned looking Jayden.
Jayden jumped out of bed, wearing nothing but a terrified expression. “No, mate, I’ll talk...” he gabbled, holding out his hands.
Nike gritted his teeth, annoyed that Jayden knew why he was there. Tama had obviously come around last night.
“Where’s Tama?” Nike asked.
“He ... he wouldn’t tell me ...”
Jayden was shaking from more than just the cold. It irritated Nike even more. Jayden was a few inches taller and wider, but still couldn’t stand up for himself. He had no balls. No, that wasn’t right, from what Nike could see Jayden had some, they were just fucking tiny.
“Bullshit!” Nike took a step forward. “Where is he?”
Jayden backed up. “I dunno.”
Nike shoved Jayden into the window. “You’re a bloody liar.”
“Nike! Leave him alone.” Leila grabbed his arm, and yanked him back.
Nike wrenched his arm free. Although he couldn’t stand Jayden, he wasn’t going to hit the twat. His short fuse had gotten him into enough trouble in the past; he didn’t need an assault charge added to his failures.
“Tell me, or I’ll smack ya,” he bluffed.
“I-I dunno,” Jayden stuttered. “Honest.”
“Stop lying to me!” Nike shoved him again.
Leila grabbed his arm. “C’mon, Nike, he knows nuthin’. Let’s go to the lounge and talk nice, aye?”
She pulled at him. “No! There’s no need for this.”
“There’s no way I’m leavin’ until he tells me where Tama is.”
Leila let go and pushed herself in between them. Nike instantly stepped back, the contact making him uncomfortable.
“This isn’t Jay’s fault,” Leila said. “This is between you and Tama. Why the fuck would Tama tell Jay anything? He would’ve known you’d come straight here.”
Nike grimaced. What Leila said made sense. Jayden always gave up way too easily. Hell, Tama would have been stupid to tell the giant pussy anything.
“Then tell me what time he showed up, and what you gave him?” Nike asked.
“About one in the morning, and I gave him weed and a coat hanger,” Jayden answered in a rush.
“Shit!” Nike pushed back his hair, knowing what it meant. Tama had probably stolen a car. How the hell was he supposed to find him now?
“Did he mention any names?” he asked.
“Nah.” Jayden grabbed his briefs and pulled them on.
“Take a guess.”
“Probably Mikey’s, possibly Sledge’s. Sledge’s sis likes Tama, and always gives him cash,” Jayden gabbled as he picked up his jeans. “I’m really sorry ‘bout Maia. I slapped Tama ‘cross the head for it.”
Nike nodded, appreciating the sentiment. “Anything else?”
Nike sighed. Jayden appeared genuine, but it didn’t make him feel any better, he was still getting jack shit. He already knew about the guys Jayden had mentioned, and fully intended on paying them a visit later.
“Do ya think he went up north?” Nike asked. “I heard he’s got an uncle up there.”
“Possibly,” Jayden replied.
Jayden shrugged. “Dunno.”
Nike knew Jayden was bullshitting him now. Jayden and Tama were best mates. The two had been tight ever since primary school.
Nike moved Leila aside. “You’re a bloody lousy liar.”
Jayden backed up into the window. “No, I’m not lying.”
“It’s Kaitaia,” Leila said.
Jayden turned on Leila. “You bitch, ya didn’t hafta tell him.”
Nike glared at Jayden for a moment. Christ, he really couldn’t stand him. He turned and left the room, not wanting to waste any more time.
Footsteps followed close behind. “Wait up, Nike,” Leila said.
Nike stopped in the lounge. “Whatcha want, Leila?”
“Didja get my last email?” she whispered.
Nike blew out a sigh. “Yeah ... you gotta stop sending them. I ain’t leavin’ Jess.”
“But, you said you’d always love me.”
Nike rolled his eyes. “For fuck’s sake, I wuz fourteen and you cheated on me.”
“How many times do I hafta say I’m sorry? Please, Nike, I made one mistake—”
“Two mistakes,” he snapped. “Or have you forgotten about crying rape?”
Leila dropped her gaze. “I panicked. I didn’t want to lose you. I love you, Nike.”
Nike sniffed. “Funny way of showin’ it by sleeping with Tama.”
“I never meant to do it. I wuz drunk.” She glanced over her shoulder then back at him.
“Why the hell should I believe anything you say?” he said.
“Cos I’m tellin’ the truth. Why can’t you see that?”
“Because you’re a liar, just like your bloody husband.”
Leila slapped his face. “I am not!”
Nike closed his eyes and breathed in deep, trying his best to calm down. He felt her hands run over his cheeks.
“Sorry, baby. I didn’t mean to hit ya.”
He opened his eyes and pushed her hands away. “I’m not your baby. I’m married and in case you haven’t noticed so are you.” He pointed at Jayden, who filled out the passage doorway.
Jayden looked devastated. Nike knew the feeling. For once he felt sorry for the guy ... but then again, maybe he’d finally got some justice for his cousin.
Jayden turned and walked away, the bedroom door slammed behind him.
Leila started crying. She looked from the doorway to Nike as though conflicted. “Please, Nike, I need to be with you.”
“Stop it, Leila. This isn’t good for anyone.”
“Then leave Jess.”
He sighed. It was useless. She wasn’t going to let up. He peeled her fingers off his arm.
“I’d leave Jay in a second for you,” she blurted out. “I only married him cos I wuz mad with you for gettin’ hitched.”
Nike stared at her, completely taken aback.
She fidgeted as his silence continued. “Say sumpthin’, please.”
He turned and walked out the door.
Leila waited until Nike was out of sight before she headed back to her room. Jayden was lying on their bed with a pillow over his face. She sat next to him and brushed her fingers across his bare chest. “I’m so sorry.”
When he didn’t move she tried to pull the pillow off, but he gripped it tighter.
“C’mon, Jaybaby ... you know Nike and I ‘ave history, but you and me, we’re the present.” Yeah, she knew it was corny, but he needed it right now.
“Go away,” he said, his voice muffled.
She slipped her hand down the front of his pants hoping makeup sex would bring him round.
Jayden grabbed her hand and yanked it out. “Fuck off!”
Leila slipped her hand down again. Jayden never stayed mad at her for long once she got him going. He always forgave her. Yeah, he called her bitch a lot, and lately ho, but he never meant anything by it. He was a big softie when she put on the charms.
She leaned over and nuzzled his ear. “I didn’t mean to say that to Nike. He just upsets me so much. But I love you more. I really do.”
Jayden yanked her hand out and sat up so fast she fell off the bed.
Leila landed on her butt. “Whatcha do that for?”
She looked up and froze, shocked by his expression. She’d never seen him look so angry. His usually soft face was hard, his big lips pulled back into a sneer. This wasn’t her sweet Jaybaby and it frightened the hell out of her.
Jayden pushed up out of bed. Leila got to her feet and quickly backed up into the wall. He placed his hands either side of her.
“Jaybaby, you’re scaring me.”
He glanced at her chest then her face, with a look that she could only describe as violent. He’d only ever been gentle with her. He wouldn’t hurt her ... would he?
Jayden’s gaze dropped to her chest again. He went to say something, but stopped, his harsh expression now uncertain.
She slipped off her nightie, wrapped her arms around his waist, and pressed into him.
“Get offa me!” He pushed her away and backhanded her.
She felt his ring slice her top lip, and tasted blood as he hit her again. A punch landed across her jaw, knocking her to the floor. She would have screamed, but nothing came out. This wasn’t real, Jayden wouldn’t hurt her. He was romantic, bought her roses on Valentine’s Day, remembered her birthday and took her to sappy movies. This wasn’t real!
He stood over her, his face furious. “You humiliated me,” he yelled. “Why didja even marry me?”
She couldn’t tell him it was because of Nike, he’d go even more ballistic.
“Answer me!” he yelled.
She jerked back. “Cos I love you.”
“Bullshit! You’re a fuckin’ liar.” He covered his face. “I also know ya fucked Tama when I wuz at work.”
Leila felt sick. She pulled herself up. Her legs were shaking so bad she was surprised she could stand. She grabbed onto the window ledge. The curtains were closed. Jayden could do anything and no one would see. In a panic she yanked one side across and opened the window. Across the road, in front of a row of brick flats, the Sprat boy was juggling a soccer ball. He didn’t notice her, his concentration fixed on what he was doing. Leila wanted to scream out to him, but couldn’t.
Jayden pushed her onto the bed and yanked the curtains shut. He turned and glared at her. “Why didja hafta do it with Tama? He’s like a brother to me.”
“I didn’t ... How didja ... Oh God, I’m so sorry.” She stood up and edged towards the door. “I’m really sorry—”
A punch struck her jaw, sending her reeling into the cabinet. She knocked over the photo of her mother and the phone as she tried to stay upright, then slid down the side and onto the floor.
Jayden pushed her onto her back. “Aren’t I good enough for you?” he asked.
“No, you’re g-g-good.”
His face darkened. “That’s not what I heard. Mikey blabbed. Whenever the kid saw me he laughed. I wanted to know why, but he wouldn’t talk until I got him high. Tama told him what ya said ‘bout my dick. Thin like a finger, too small to feel.” Jayden jammed a finger between her legs, making her squeal. He sneered. “Ya felt that, didn’t cha?”
Leila started to shake. “Please stop, please.”
“No! I’ve known for a week now and like a retard I did nuthin’.”
Stunned, Leila stared at him, realising that was when he’d started calling her a ho. “Why didn’t cha tell me sooner?” she sobbed.
“Tama wuzn’t gonna steal ya. He may fuck ya, but he’s still my mate...”
Leila didn’t see his logic.
“...but Nike is different. If he said yes, you’d leave me in a second.”
“But I never slept with Nike when I wuz with you.”
“Not from want of tryin’.”
Tears ran down her face. “Please stop, Jayden, please...”
He removed his hand and stood up. “Who’s the ugly one now?”
Oh God, he looked like he was going to kill her.
He growled and kicked her stomach.
Leila finally screamed.
LINKS to the rest of BEHIND THE HOOD: