Eni looked from her mirror and back outside. The wind guided the tree branches outside – she could hear the whistling mixed with the low whirr of the washing machine downstairs. Things were going well for her. She had come out of a relationship and was finally at that stage where the thought of her ex made her feel physically ill. Not ill because she missed him, but ill for putting up with his rubbish for so long. She was in the healing stage, according to her friend Luisa. Luisa was into horoscopes and star signs. Whenever they passed a highway sign with 888, she would look up at the sky and say, ‘Something good is going to happen today.’
Apparently, they were angel numbers, but Eni didn’t pay attention to any of that. Her family was devoutly religious and didn’t believe in astrology. They thought it was a waste of time, but Luisa swore by it. She was a self-declared Pisces Princess.
Every day she asked Eni the same thing, ‘Please, Eni, ask your mum what time you were born! We need to know your rising sign!’
But Eni would give the same blunt answer, ‘She won’t tell me because of what happened to Likia from loku. You’re crazy, Luisa!’
Eni knew Luisa hated being called crazy, but she wasn’t lying about Likia though. Eni remembered walking into Sunday School class and seeing poor Likia in tears after getting a fasi in front of everyone. She had asked her mum for her birth time, and that same day she was caught seeing the Samoan fofō lady. One of the elders from loku recognised their family car parked outside and it turned into a big scandal.
Likia’s first mistake was driving her family van around the area, and her second mistake was parking it right in the driveway knowing it had JESUS SAVES in big bold lettering on the back window. You could imagine the community’s shock seeing that car parked outside the demonic and crazy healer lady’s house. It was a shambles, especially because the loku didn’t believe in psychics or healers. They believed it was an evil way of the past, pre-colonisation when their ancestors were savages in Samoa. They thought it was like asking Satan for help. They believed they had moved forward and now only trusted God’s healing powers, though Eni found that hypocritical because they also believed in modern medicine.
After Likia’s parents found out where she had been, she was banned from singing in the fa‘ili at loku. She couldn’t speak to any of the young girls until she was better. Likia used to live with her Nana at the old corner flats and look after her, but after that, she had to move back home with her parents. It had been over four months and Likia still hadn’t reconnected with any of them. The ladies at loku said the healer had messed with her and now Likia would never be the same.
Knowing all this, Eni refused to even think about asking for her birth time. All she knew was that she was a Cancer star sign. What relevance that had to her life, she had no idea yet. She was still slowly finding herself.
‘Am I seeing you this weekend?’ Luisa asked.
‘Seeing me where?’ Eni replied.
‘Uh … it’s Mika’s birthday, remember?’
‘Jokes, was that this weekend?’ Eni asked.
Mika was Luisa’s older brother, and he was turning twenty-one. Eni had always been secretly obsessed over him. When he moved to Auckland and became a gym freak, she fell in love. Mika was a real gentleman. It made sense because he was raised by his grandparents, and they only spoke Samoan in their house. Mika was also studying to be a civil engineer. Unlike her ex-boyfriend, who didn’t have a proper job and instead sold his Uncle’s weed as his full-time hustle, Mika was Eni’s dream man, but she couldn’t tell Luisa or she would probably kill her. She couldn’t be with her best friend’s brother, that was against girl code. That was one con about being Luisa’s best friend. That and Luisa being gorgeous, meaning Eni was almost invisible to others.
‘Well, I should be able to go if it’s here in Hamilton?’ Eni said.
‘Nah, Mika couldn’t get Monday off so it’s up in Auckland. We leave Friday. You can come – Dad said we’re taking the ute!’
‘I’ll let you know,’ Eni said.
Eni could see Luisa’s eyes roll back. ‘Eni, I told you this months ago? You’re not with Henry, don’t let him stop you from living life! You’re allowed to be happy.’
Luisa pressed her big lips together and sat with her arms folded. She had that same look on her face. That I told you so look she would give Eni every time another cheating rumour spread about Henry. She felt her cold stare but didn’t dare look up. She hated disappointing her. She toyed with her fingers and fidgeted with her skirt. A minute passed before Luisa sat up next to her. She reached out her arms and held Eni close.
‘Trust me, Eni, there are guys out there dying to be with you! You should just focus on being happy, truly happy!’
‘I know,’ Eni nodded.
‘Dammit, is that the time?’ Luisa asked as she shoved her books into her black backpack.
Eni glanced at her watch but, before she could answer, she felt the bed shift as Luisa stood.
‘Let’s talk soon, but we’ll pick you up on Friday! Lock it in! Don’t worry, Mum will sort it.’
‘Okay, bye,’ Eni said.
She looked down at her screen and typed in the search bar, How to say no, politely.
No means no, how to tell him to stop … read more …
She exited the page immediately. She would have to tough it out this weekend. Though she would love to lie in bed under her favourite mink blanket, she couldn’t let Luisa down.
Eni only packed her bags after her mum had said yes. It was almost a default setting for her mum to say no before hearing her out; she didn’t even let Eni stay the night at sleepovers.
‘Tafao fa‘alelei Eni,’ her mum said.
‘I will, Mum. I’ll be with Luisa’s family too,’ Eni reassured her.
She had packed the last of her things when she heard a beep outside. She pulled down on the withered string and the cream-coloured blinds opened. Uncle Pat’s ute was parked up in the driveway.
‘Fa Mum, alofa atu!’
‘Bye darling, say thanks to Pat and Liz!’ her mum replied.
Eni gave her Mum a kiss, grabbed the suitcase, and lugged it out front. Uncle Pat popped the boot before running around the car and taking her suitcase. Eni hadn’t been in his new car, but it was much bigger than her and her mum’s little Suzuki swift. The seats were leather, and she needed to jump to get inside. Eni smiled at Luisa before jumping in. She noticed Luisa’s new dress. It was her favourite colour, sky blue, and fit her perfectly.
‘Hey, you didn’t tell me to look nice?’ Eni said.
‘I thought I told you we’re going to the pre-party, remember?’ she whispered.
‘Nah, you didn’t. Here I am wearing an old rugby hoodie and jeans. I’ll look silly,’ Eni said.
‘Eh, I’ll explain later, just jump in.’
They took their seats and Eni reluctantly buckled her seatbelt. ‘Thanks for letting me come, Aunty and Uncle, Mum says thanks too!’ Eni said.
‘It’s okay, you know you’re family, darling.’ Aunty Liz smiled. Eni smiled back.
‘I told them we’re setting up for the birthday dinner. But we’re going to have a few drinks with my cousin instead. It’s a pre-party I guess,’ Luisa whispered.
Eni hated being under-dressed and feeling out of place. She’d just told her mum she would be careful, yet here she was, about to attend a party. She sunk back into her seat. At least she was in another city. She didn’t need to worry about anyone reporting back to her parents.
‘Can we at least stop somewhere to change before?’ Eni asked.
Luisa raised her brows twice, signalling yes. They sat in silence for the rest of the trip before arriving just as Mika was backing out of the driveway.
‘Wakey wakey, girls!’ Uncle Pat said.
Eni squinted as the red light from the car flashed bright towards her. She wiped the drool onto her sleeve and sat up. Luckily, Mika was too focused on avoiding the fence to notice. He wound down his window and shouted, ‘Just heading to the barbers.’
‘We’ll see you later, then,’ Aunty Liz replied.
He peered into the back seat and noticed Eni and Luisa. ‘Sup Eni. Tell Luisa to wake up, it was only a ninety-minute drive!’
Eni blushed nervously as he drove off. ‘C’mon, let’s get ready Luisa,’ she said as they entered the house.
Luisa had the best clothes. Aunty Liz worked at the outlet mall and she would constantly get new clothes. Eni loved Luisa’s clothes and style. Eni’s mum always reassured her that she was beautiful, but that didn’t count because they were family and, most of all, they weren’t boys.
‘I promise, you look fine Eni. I’m so excited,’ Luisa replied.
‘I mean … at least my hair can hide my flat chest?’ Eni looked at Luisa with pleading eyes.
‘Excuse me, you look stunning, Eni, stop doubting yourself.’
She looked back at her and smiled – it was almost time.
They headed to the party with Luisa’s older cousin, Julie. She was nice and friendly. You could tell she was a social butterfly because she wouldn’t stop talking.
‘Whereabouts in Australia is Julie from, Luisa?’ Eni asked.
‘She’s from South Auckland, I don’t know why she sounds like that!’ Luisa laughed. They looked out the window, and Eni noticed Luisa carefully scanning the road signs, looking for those silly angel numbers. The next sign had a big 1111 written on it.
‘It doesn’t mean anything, right?’ Eni asked.
‘Ah, it might be bad, Eni! We have to stay together tonight,’ Luisa replied.
The girls walked into the glow of LED lights and the sound of glasses clinking, mixed with the loud thud of the bass speaker.
‘Eni, come with me, I want to introduce you to her,’ Luisa said.
‘Huh?’ Eni replied in confusion.
‘You’ll see,’ Luisa said. ‘So you know how I’ve been begging for your birth time? I finally found it! You were born July 7 at 12:20 a.m. I even found a heaIer!’ Luisa giggled.
‘You’re lying, right?’ Eni said.
‘Honest to God, I’m telling the truth. I’ll show you.’
Luisa yanked at Eni’s arm and they sandwiched themselves between the crowd towards the back of the hallway. Eni was careful not to bump into anyone. The girls around them looked about Mika’s age. She could see their sour expressions as they walked past.
‘My brother’s Mika!’ Luisa yelled when their eyes met.
That usually stopped the annoyed expressions. It was also Luisa’s favourite party trick. Eni was in awe of her. They finally made it into the back room. The woman seemed to have a crowd already, but Luisa pushed through.
‘Hi, remember me? I called you to come here?’ Luisa said.
The woman looked at her blankly before rushing to her side. ‘Oi sole, o oe o le tuafafine o Mika?’ the woman asked.
‘Huh? Lady, I don’t speak Samoan,’ Luisa scoffed.
‘Luisa, don’t be so rude. Talofa lava tinā, oa mai oe?’ Eni asked.
‘Manuia fa‘afetai Eni. Oka ua vave ga e matua. How are your parents?’ the woman asked.
‘E a? How do you know my parents?’ Eni replied. She couldn’t shake off the sick feeling she felt. She had never met this woman who claimed to know her parents.
‘Give me your hand Eni. Don’t forget what your mum said. Fai sou tala fa‘afetai ia Pat ma Liz. Tafao fa‘alelei uailoa!’ the woman continued.
The LED lights were dark red and the mist from the smoke machine in the living room had travelled to where Eni stood. It felt tight and suffocating. Eni’s chest was heavy and the room seemed to cave in.
‘How did you know that? Tell me!’ Eni fired back.
‘Eni, don’t speak to her like that!’ Luisa jumped in.
‘Wait, what? You brought this lady here who somehow knew my exact conversation with my mum this morning, and now you’re mad at me?’ Eni snapped.
The woman stood still with a smile on her face as she looked at them both.
‘Eni, does your mum know where you are?’ the woman asked.
The crowd of drunk and drugged partygoers seemed closer than she remembered. Eni looked back at the woman, chuckling to herself, then back at Luisa who had joined the crowd. The woman’s laughter became louder and louder. She started chanting the words Eni had heard earlier.
‘Tafao fa‘alelei,’ the woman said. ‘Tafao fa‘alelei,’ the woman repeated. She looked at the crowd and lifted her arms before repeating again, ‘Tafao fa‘alelei.’
‘Tafao fa‘alelei, tafao fa‘alelei,’ the crowd chanted together with the woman.
Eni felt the room caving in. Her ears rang and her vision blurred as the smoke machine revved up. She looked around the room for Luisa – she stood near the curtained back of the room with an innocent smile.
‘I knew you would love her, Eni. She’s amazing, it’s like she’s not human. I swear she speaks to spirits in her sleep!’ Luisa yelled in excitement.
Eni felt her heart race, she clenched her fists together and gripped her thumb tightly. She held it so tight she felt her knuckles crack. The room was muggy and dark. The woman was still chanting with the crowd and now Luisa had joined her.
‘Tafao fa‘alelei,’ Luisa screamed.
‘Tafao fa‘alelei,’ they chanted.
‘I hope this is one of your stupid pranks, Luisa – let’s go!’ Eni said.
Eni looked back at the woman, but she had disappeared. The crowd still stood there, chanting like zombies. Eni felt her chest tighten. She balled her hands into fists as she searched for Luisa. She pushed through the crowd, shoving the dazed boys and girls to the side, looking for Luisa’s sky-blue dress.
‘This isn’t funny Luisa!’ she yelled.
The crowd continued chanting. Their words echoed in her head and before she knew it, she found herself repeating them. Eni fell to her knees with tears in her eyes.
‘I didn’t want to come here!’ she cried.
‘Eni, tu i luga! Tafao fa‘alelei,’ she heard.
Eni looked up and saw Luisa standing next to the woman. They both looked down at Eni. They looked like shadows in the darkness but Eni recognised Luisa’s big smile. She stood up.
‘Luisa, it’s not funny,’ Eni cried.
Luisa sighed. ‘Tafao fa‘alelei,’ she repeated.
Please, stop!’ Eni said.
‘Tafao fa‘alelei, tafao fa‘alelei, tafao fa‘alelei,’ Luisa replied.
Eni felt her pulse quicken and her heart race again. She swung her fist at Luisa.
Eni turned to the woman and threw a left and right hook.
She heard scrambling at the door, the lights suddenly flicked on. She rubbed her eyes and got up. Luisa and the woman lay on the carpet, knocked out cold.
‘Eni?’ she heard behind her.
She felt her heart racing again – that same sick feeling was back. She turned slowly and wished she could have melted to the floor or run away.
‘What did you do to my sister?’ Mika asked.