The dark green fronds of the slender palm trees were rustling gently in the slight breeze. Beyond the clear green lagoon the reef stood as a barrier against which the waves of the South Pacific played catch with each other; rushing against it and splashing white foam in the air as they ran along the dark reef before gliding back into the ocean. A picture of exuberant peace.
"Oh, what did I let myself in for!" wailed the slender blond woman as she buried her tear stained face in her hands, leaning against the strong shoulder of her dark haired friend, whose strong brown arms drew her closer. Hanna and Natia were at the airport, waitin for Hannah's plane to board. They had become friends over the last few months. When Hanna moved to this idyllic island she hardly knew anybody and most locals were too shy to befriend her.
"We were thinking of warning you but we thought this time things would work out alright. We didn't know you and were too shy to talk with you."
Hannah lifted her head and gazed across the landing strip to the lagoon on the far horizon. She remembered the first time she came to this island, just on a stopover for two days. There was not much to do and she felt lonely in her hotel room. Then a slip of paper appeared under the door. It was an invitation to a BBQ at a hotel nearby. 'Yes, that would be nice,' she thought picking up the phone, making a booking. She was not disappointed, the BBQ was held at the lagoon's edge under swaying palms, the salad and sausages were quite tasty and a group of handsome young islanders sang to the soft tunes of their guitars. People were seated at a long table and next to her was a local man, maybe in his forties.
"I am Tane,' he introduced himself.
"My name is Hannah,' she responded. Tane displayed great knowledge of the island culture and invited her to a tour next day.
"I have to fly out in the evening but in the morning I could spare a couple of hours." She accepted the invitation and the next day she was pleased by Tane's respectful manners. He told her about the history of the island, drove her along the brilliant blue lagoon and also took her inland towards the high volcanic peak. What a contrast! Here no sound of the waves could be heard, it was very still, only a white horse in meadow nearby grazed unperturbed. Hannah felt completely safe in the company of this man. He maintained his businesslike, respectful ways. He also told her that his wife had left him many years ago and he had to bring up his son all by himself.
Tane promised to see her off at the airport and as they said their good-byes he asked her to come back.
And so started their romance. Hannah visited Tane a few more times and a year later they were married in a tropical garden. Hannah wearing a beautiful flower crown. She had given up her home and her job in Australia to be with Tane and be a mother to his teenage son, Paulo, who had the same deep brown eyes and wavy black hair as his father.
Hannah felt happy to have a husband again after many years on her own; and also a young son to care for. Her own children had flown the nest a few years ago. So good to be needed again. She looked after Tane's accounts while he did tour guiding.
Not long after the wedding there arrived in the mail a number of long-outstanding invoices. "Don't worry about that," Tane replied laughingly when she asked him about it, "it's only money. They can wait."
Hannah didn't like having debts and quietly paid the bills out of her own savings. Tane neve said a word of thanks. Often he came home late, saying,"how lovely to have wife at home now," but when she asked where he had been he replied harshly that was none of her business.
'Business? That late in the evening?' she mused but didn't dare to press the matter any further. She spent most of her evenings alone, sitting on the veranda, sipping a rum and coke and watching the waves chasing each other along the reef.
One day Tane told her he had to fly to an outer island to visit some relatives. "Can I come?" she asked.
"No, you must stay here. I don't want you to come."
"Ok, but I'll drive you to the airport, no need to pay money for a taxi," Hannah offered but Tane firmly refused. Paulo had listened to the conversation and looked very confused.
"Ok," Tane relented, "you two can drop me off." As they got to the airport Paulo and Hannah came with him to the counter but Tane got very angry and sent them home immediately. Hannah did not understand why Tane had become so aggressive and harsh to her. Lately he had verbally abused her," you white people only come here to take our land," he had said at one time. Totally ignoring the fact that Hannah had poured all her savings into his business while Tane would spend big and then make debts.
Paulo went to spend time with his friends and Hannah settled down at a coffee table, still smarting from Tane's odd behaviour at the airport. She picked up a newspaper from the shelf under the table and a white envelope fell out. Hannah opened it. Inside were several handwritten pages. 'My dearest Tane', the letter began, 'I cannot wait to be together with you again and am so looking forward to our time together in the outer islands' Hannah felt the bottom of her life dropping out as she sank to the floor. When she investigated the next day her suspicions were confirmed and when she confronted Tane with the truth about this relationship with another woman after his return he became ragingly angry and beat her viciously. Pulling her hair, slapping her face and kicking her in the stomach. Hannah ran for her life.
Now she was saying good bye to her only friend, Natia. Soon she would fly back to Australia to start a new life.
Hannah's island dream was shattered
Elisabeth Puruto lives on the East Coast of Australia. She is a born-again Christian of mature age and has taken part in a number of part time mission outreaches. At age 67 she obtained her PhD in Linguistics and is currently studying for a Master in Divinity.
Copyright E. Puruto 2013.