Meli sat cross legged on the woven grass mat, staring at her feet in angry silence as William grabbed a handful of his precious books and stormed from the room.
William was heading back to sea, leaving her again in this alien place, heavily pregnant with their second child, without the vital family support that was intrinsic to the heart and soul of a true Samoan. They had argued because she had begged him to allow her sister to come and be with her for this birth but he remained furious with her for taking their first child Mary back to Samoa without his permission. He had sent a skiff to bring them back and his punishment was that she could have no family to stay for one year; the fact that she had fallen pregnant during that year made no difference to the penalty. The embarrassment her flight had caused in the seafaring world where William was a highly respected mariner meant his anger would be long lived.
She knew her current unhappiness was as much her fault as William’s – a childish infatuation with this tall blonde English sea Captain saw her defy her father and swim out to his boat as it set sail from PagoPago Harbour back to Levuka in Fiji. His comfortable home seemed like heaven for Meli at first but the Fijian house staff treated her with disdain. This Polynesian ‘child’ becoming the mistress was an insult.
Mary’s birth had been traumatic and Meli felt none of the natural mother’s love she had expected. Now she was pregnant again and dreading the arrival of another responsibility without her family to support her.
As these miserable thoughts assailed her, Maia the Fijian housemaid came to the door and indicated with a jerk of her finger that Meli needed to vacate the room – she had to clean. Her snooty attitude and angry face made Meli even more unhappy – and so she made a decision. She would make her way home to Pago Pago while the Captain was away, as soon as possible. Wandering casually around the wharf she established there was a small schooner departing for Samoa in the early hours of the morning. She knew one of the Samoan crew and arranged with him to help her stowaway. When the boat set sail at dawn the next day, Meli was on board.
As they headed away from the protection of the harbour, the seas quickly turned violent. In what seemed no time at all her crewman mate, Soti, came below and warned there was a cyclone brewing and it would be an uncomfortable & dangerous journey. The boat tipped and yawed and its timber hull squealed and groaned as it was pummelled by wave after wave. Meli clung to the bunk but at one stage was flung to the floor landing hard on her bulging stomach – a shooting pain causing tears of fear for her unborn child. Clawing her way back into the bunk, Meli curled up in the foetal position and prayed to the gods for her safety and that of her child. She promised that if she survived she would stay in Levuka and be a good wife and mother.
But the storm worsened and the schooner seemed to be flung all over the ocean.
Soti stumbled into the cabin “ Meli..the captain is hurt. Lomi and I are trying to control the ship but the mast has snapped and our sails are shredded. I have to go – just stay in your bunk and hold on for your life”
What seemed like hours later, the terror ended. The boat went still. They were in the eye of the storm. Meli fell into an exhausted sleep. In amongst her restless dreams she thought she heard William’s voice .
“Are you all Ok in there” …” Ahoy there – this is the “The Elizabeth” .. is everyone OK? “
Meli woke – that WAS William’s voice. He had come to save her – but he didn’t know she was here? Her stomach still hurt and as she gingerly stood she noticed blood dripping down the inside of her leg. Something was wrong
“ William, William – it’s me Meli – I am here in the bottom cabin. Help me, help me.”
Meli called again and again , growing weaker with each attempt. Just as she felt she could cry out no more, William burst into the cabin
“ For Christ’s’ sake Meli what are you doing here you stupid girl. You are lucky to be alive… what’s up, what’s the matter ..there’s blood….’’
Meli’s final thoughts as she drifted into unconsciousness were “ a long way from home … I am going to always be a long… way… from ….home’