Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mail order Bride, Chapter 11, Healing


Destiny had no where to go, so the social worker of Middlemore hospital suggested she went to a half way house run by the Baptist City Mission in Mangere. The accident had broken her beautiful European nose, left many scars on her face. Destiny had no money for cosmetic surgery to make her beautiful again. For a long time, she refused to look in a mirror. She had lost the face that had won the hearts of millions. She hated the regimented half way house.

“Hi, I am Connie, I am a volunteer and I like to be your friend,”

“Oh Shit! Not another mail ordered bride.”

“I am no mail ordered bride, I am a Chinese born and raised in Pukekohe, and I am married to my Maori husband Ben, we knew each other from College.”

“The office thought my Asian roots might help you in your rehabilitation. My mum came over from Canton, and my Dad was born in Pukekohe like me. His grandfather came in the early days. He had to pay one hundred pounds as a poll tax and he had to pass an education test which required him to read one hundred words in English. ”

“Are you one of those Bible bangers passing out their bullshit propaganda and preaching to me?”

“No Christine, I am not trying to preach to you. I am a Christian, and I just want to be your friend.”

“If you are my friend, give me money to fix up my face.”

“Sorry, I don’t have money and I can’t do that.”

“Then get off my face.”

Christine desperately needed money for cosmetic surgery to fix up her face. She covered her face with a veil and went to Mt Eden Prison to get Isabella to release the money that Gilbert had willed for her.

Isabella said, “Christine, there is not much money, Gilbert was very poor and he left you only five thousand dollars.”

“The house, we can sell the house.”

“Christine, the house didn’t belong to us, it is a State rented house, when I went to prison, the Housing Corporation took it back.”

“Damn you! Damn Gilbert! He lied to me that the house belonged to him.”

Isabella arranged for the lawyers to release Christine’s money. Christine took the money and made an appointment with a plastic surgeon.

“The scars on your face are so horrendous that I will need many sessions to remove them. The interns at Middlemore hospital who sewed your scars up when you were admitted in the hospital were butchers who merely tried to stop the bleeding. You have developed massive horrible keliods which I have to remove. Your nose job will cost twelve thousand dollars. I am afraid you will need more than five thousand dollars to change you from an ugly duckling to a beautiful swam.”

“What can you do with five thousand dollars?”

“Nothing much, I am afraid.”

Christine left the clinic in a huff.

Christine left the half way house and she decided she would earn big bucks the only way she could, by walking the streets. She dressed sexily, and piled lots of make up on her face and wore high platform shoes and loitered outside ‘Pink Pussy cat.’ She was chased by old prostitutes and beaten up by rival gangs.

“Get off our turf, you cow! Don’t let us see you again, piss off!”

Christine tried sneaking into pubs, the older men looked and stared at Christine.

“Hi baby, you looking for your dad?”

The pub landlord chased her away, “Don’t you show your face again, you will get me into a load of shit.”

In desperation, Christine looked for the pimps who had provided clients for her when she was under the care of Kevin.

“Sorry, no can do, kid, have you looked at the mirror?”

She did not realize the previous men who wanted her had pedophile tendencies and fetishes. Her growing budded breasts turned them off and they were not attractive to straight men who desire voluptuous adult women.

In desperation and for survival, Christine risked being beaten up by her previous rival gangs and whenever a car stopped at K Rd, she quickly got into the car. Sometimes she was lucky, the car sped off before the rival gangs turned up, and before the client had a look at her ugly face. The same cars never opened their doors for her when their owners found out she was so ugly and that she was just a kid. They didn’t want any trouble with the police.

In exasperation, Christine returned to the half way house in tears. Connie was there to give her a shoulder to cry on.

“Christine, the beauty of one’s heart is more important than one’s face. Look at me carefully, do you see anything?”

Connie removed a glass cosmetic eye and prosthetic tissue round the eye socket and showed it to Christine. Christine gasped in horror at the big deep empty eye socket of Connie. Connie looked like some freak from the Rocky Horror show.

“When I was a ten years old girl, my brother Charles and neighbor Henry and I were fighting with sticks. Charles accidentally poked his stick into my left eye. Consequently I lost my eye. My market gardening parents were very busy and didn’t take care of me properly. The tissue round the lost eye got infected and this is why you see a deep hole in my face. The children were very cruel and called me an one-eye monster. Only Ben saw beyond my one eye face. He loved me for what I am.”

Christine hugged Connie and accepted her as her friend. Connie came to see her every week.

It was approaching Christmas.

“Christine has been through a horrendous ordeal. She has no family here in Aotearoa except her adopted mum who is in prison. I like her to be part of our whānau and invite her to spend Christmas with us,” Connie told her family.

Connie told Christine the half way house was closing for the Christmas break and all residents would spend Christmas with family and friends.

“Would you like to come back with us? My eighteen year old year old daughter, Deborah will be happy to share her room with you and my son Sam who is ten is happy to take you out.”

Connie seemed genuine enough. On the morning of the twenty-first, Christine eagerly packed and got ready for Connie to pick her up. When they got back to Connie’s house at Pukaki Road in Mangere, Christine felt touched by a simple but warm house. Deborah was not back from her volunteering job at Radio Rhema.

“Deborah is a part time tea lady at Radio Rhema. She goes to university studying Sociology and ushers at the Edge at the Town Hall. Ben works the Auckland International Airport as a cleaner. Sam is in year five at Mangere College.”

“We are having Christmas caroling tonight, some of the guys from Church are coming to our house to sing to us. Would you help me fix up some supper for them?”

Christine reluctantly helped Connie bake Christmas mince pies and sausage rolls and she thought of the Christmases when Gilbert was alive. She looked under the tree and saw presents for her. Something she had not had for the last few years.

“Christine, I guess you haven’t had Mutton Birds before?”

“Mutton birds?”

“They are birds that live on the beach and are very tough. They were hunted and salted and is a classic Maori dish. I bought these birds from the fish monger today. We have to boil and boil and change the water to make them less salty.

“What a funny name!”

“I guess it is because the mutton bird is very fat. We eat them with puha, brown bread and with our fingers to tear the birds apart.”

After dinner, the carolers from Mangere Baptist Church came in six cars. Christine had expected old stuffy old ladies, but she saw singers from all age groups. There were only a few old stuffy ladies. They started with Joy to the world, and they rang bells. Christine thought she could ring them better. Christine was bored stiff when a man read the Bible and said his prayers. She almost wanted to leave when they started singing,

Feliz Navidad, prospero Ano y Felicidad…..I want to wish you a Merry Christmas, from the bottom of my heart.

They started dancing and waving their hands about. Some were even gyrating. Christine’s mood was elevated and when the leader asked everyone to join it, Christine surprised herself and she joined in the fun. After the singing, they all came up to Connie’s family and shook their hands, and they came up to Christine too. At supper, everyone had a good time and Christine felt relaxed.

That night, Deborah slept on an airbed on the floor. She let Christine have her bed. Deborah was only three years older than Christine and they could be like sisters.

“You! A volunteer tea lady at Radio Rhema?”

“Yes, it is not glamorous, but someone has to do the job. Sometimes, I invited to play their drums when their drummer is away.”

“You play the drums?”

“Yes, I play the drums in the church.”

“Wow! I have always wanted to play drums, when I was with the gang, we’d go to the Auckland Baptist Tabernacle and listen to the drums.”

“Would you like to join us sometimes and I can let you try playing the drums.”

The next day, Connie took Christine, Deborah and Sam to their marae. It was the first time Christine been to a marae. The high pitched roof and the triangle shape of the marae intrigued Christine. She wanted to touch the elaborate carvings and the two warriors who stuck out their tongues. Christine wanted to stick out her tongue but knew this was a very sacred place. She looked around at the wharenui and wharekai. Christine wished she had roots like the Maoris. Connie brought gifts to the elders for Christmas. Christine wondered what it was like in a village in the Philippines.

Back at home, they sang ‘A Pukeko in a Ponga Tree’ to the tune of ‘The twelve days of Christmas’ and Sam danced around the lounge like the bird Pukeko. The laughter was genuine and Christine wished this was the kind of family she had belonged to. Connie and Ben were not rich, but they had plenty of love to share around. Christine was much touched by the transparency of this fun loving family. Sam was an origami enthusiast, and he patiently showed Christine how to fold a crane, a symbol for peace and they hung up cranes on their Christmas tree. Christmas day came, Christine did not want to go to Church with Connie. Connie said it was ok, she could have a sleep in.

They pulled their Christmas bonbons, and sat down for a great lunch of roast turkey, leg of ham, roasted pumpkin, kumaras, chocolate Christmas log and a big pavlova for dessert. They gave out their presents and Christine was very happy to receive a diary from Connie and Ben, a beautiful top from Deborah and an origami book from Sam. Christine was in tears. She had not brought any presents and had not expected to receive any.

On Boxing Day, with Deborah’s grandma Gabrielle and other members of the whānau, they went to the Whangateau Harbour for a giant cookout and shell fish collecting. It is one of the most popular pipi and cockle bed spots in the North Island. They brought big chilly bins with lamb chops, chicken Maryland, sausages, salads and desserts.

“The tide is turned. Come, Christine, let’s dig for pipis,” suggested Connie and Ben when they saw that she wasn’t joining the young people swim or play touch rugby or volley ball.

“Huh? Pipi! What’s that?”

“Pipis are small rounded shell fish that hide in the sand,” said Connie.

“You see these holes in the sand? They are siphon holes made by the pipis, when you dig into the sand, you will find the pipis,” added Ben.

With many men, women and children digging with sticks and spades, within a couple of hours, they filled up sacks of pipis. Some pipis were eaten raw like raw oysters. The rest were put on top of a corrugated sheet and cooked over the barbecue fire.

“This reminds me of the time I had a seafood bonanza,”

“Are you okay in telling this story?” asked Connie.

“Yes! There was this time when I had so much seafood that they were coming out of my ears.”

That night, twenty five members of the whānau packed in a friend’s bach. Some like her, were sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor of the lounge. Others were squeezed in the three bedrooms. For once, Christine felt this was what whānau was about. It was people who made a whānau or a family. They ate together, they played together, and they slept together. She wished she was born to this Maori family, she smiled as she shut her eyes, Connie had made her a member of this Whānau.

Ben announced that he was turning his fifty on Easter Weekend and Christine was invited to a Maori hangi. Ben took Christine to his hangi pit at the far end of the section. It was a big deep hole which the Maoris cook their food in. There will be a band, and lots of food, Ben promised. Connie drove Christine to the half way house and told her that she was welcome to visit the house any time she wanted to. Christine was in tears. She had not felt like this with Isabella. Connie wasn’t her mum, but she felt like one. She wished she didn’t have to leave the house.

Christine went to the halfway house feeling very miserable. She was jealous of Deborah having a fantastic mum and dad, a nice education, a good part time job and a loving brother. She felt the strict rules of the half-way house meant she was no better than being in prison.

So she left and walked the streets again. The older clients she could get were dirty old men who would not use the condoms. When the shops were advertising Easter sale, she remembered Ben’s invitation to his big five O. She was afraid that the invitation would be withdrawn since she had left the half way house. She went to the half way house and washed up and walked to Connie and Ben’s place.

Connie and Ben welcomed her with open arms.

“You can choose to help me make raw fish salad or help Ben in the hangi pit,” said Connie. Connie diced some snapper fillets, squeezed lemons to marinate the fish. She put them in the fridge.

“Job done here, go to the garden and look for Ben.”

Ben had just finished burning the macrocarpa timber and heating the volcanic stones for the hangi. He was arranging wire baskets of a whole pig, mutton, lamb, chicken, fish, kumara, potato, pumpkin, carrot, onion, cabbage and puha into the baskets. Ben packed wet sacks on top of the hot stones and steam hissed upon contact.

“Hi, Christine, glad to see you, come to see a real hangi have you?”

Christine was amazed at the amount of food that was lowered in the pit. Ben sprayed more wet sacks on top of the food.

“Come, Christine, you can help me layer the earth to cover the food.”

“Won’t the soil get into the food?”

“No, the sacks cover the food so the soil won’t get into the food. The hangi is like a giant oven, it can cook a lot of food to feed five hundred hungry people,”

“You are pulling me legs.”

“Yes I was teasing you. I am not having five hundred guests tonight but there will be a lot of guests and they will feast on a succulent meal. You are looking at Ben, the finest hangi maker in Auckland.”

Christine felt touched by the Maori hospitality. Connie had shown her secret recipe to make raw fish salad, Samoan coconut milk, and spring onions. It was very rich and delicious.

“I have never eaten anything like this before.”

That night, they had fun. There was plenty of feasting. The punch Connie served was non alcoholic. Ben rented a drum set for Deborah and Christine had a go at it. That night, Christine slept fitfully on Deborah’s bed.

The next time Connie came to see Christine in the half way house, Christine was lying in bed refusing to see her. She was having a giant meltdown.

“Go away! I don’t want to see you.”

“What’s wrong, Christine?”

“You go back to your perfect world, perfect family, perfect husband and perfect children. What do I have? Nothing!”

Connie left quietly hoping Christine would come to her senses.

Meanwhile Isabella had been released on parole. The parole board had assessed her and decided to release her taking the view that her potential risk to the community was minimal. Isabella had been a model prisoner. She had signed up for a Cosmetology program on reconstructive make up. Her instructor said she passed with flying lessons and she started working as a volunteer in the burns clinics of the government hospitals. The patients liked her gentle nature and her skilful way as she applied foundation to mask their scars. Seeing how adept Isabella was with her hands, the women asked if she could trim and groom their hair.

“You are a Godsend, Isabella, you cheer us up every time you come and you make yourself so helpful too.”

Isabella longed for the day Christine will forgive her and let her teach her how to do the make up to conceal her massive scars.

In June, Connie got a phone call from the half-way house. They found that Christine had slashed her wrist in the shower and had lost a lot of blood. Connie rushed to the hospital, Christine had lost such a lot of blood that she need a quart of blood for transfusion. The trouble was Christine was a rare AB type and there wasn’t any available in the blood bank. To top it, Christine was five months pregnant. Both mother and baby were in a very dicey situation.

Isabella was at the tea room when she overheard the nurses talking about the pregnant teenage runaway girl who tried to committed suicide and the call for donors of AB negative blood. She rushed to the blood bank to offer her blood as she was AB type. It was then she found that the recipient of her blood was none other than her daughter Christine. She requested to keep her donation anonymous in case Christine would get upset and reject her blood.

“How painful it must be for Isabella to be rejected by Christine after giving her blood,” Connie discussed with her daughter, Deborah.

Connie sat by Christine’s bedside waiting for her to wake up. Isabella stood quietly until she overcome her fear and introduced herself to Connie. The two women embraced and shook their heads whilst looking at Christine. Christine was in comatose for two days.

When Christine woke up, it was the warm face of Connie who was looking at her. She did not see the tired face of Isabella hiding at the corner. The doctor told Christine that they managed to save the baby but he was very weak.

“What baby?” asked Christine.

“It’s your baby, it’s been growing in your tummy for five months.”

A torrent of tears fell from Christine’s eyes, “I don’t want this baby, it is not a baby of love, it is a baby of lust, it is a baby from when I was a prostitute, I got no money, I got no qualification, I got no skill, I can’t have this baby.”

The doctor told her that five months pregnancy was too far on to have an abortion.

“You could put the baby out for adoption, many childless couples will want to adopt your baby.”

“I don’t even know who the father of the baby is.” Christine shuddered at the thought of those dirty old men pawing her and making her pregnant.

“Christine, I talked with Ben, he is happy for you to come back with me after you are discharged.”

There were several titillating newspaper columns on the suicide. Though there was name suppression, people suspected who she was. The radio talk back host listened to a flurry of discussion of how suicide victims were actually asking for help. These people needed expert attention.

After three weeks, when Christine’s condition had stabilized, Connie took her home. Ben converted their garage and made it a lovely room for Christine so she had a bit of privacy when she needed some. Connie accompanied Christine to her antenatal classes.

“Christine, how was it like when you were little?”

“I don’t remember Philippines, the rat bag woman adopted me when I was four.”

“Why do you think she chose you and not one of the million girls?”

“I don’t know why she brought me over since she hates me. She claims that it was Gilbert’s idea. He fell in love with me when they went over to Philippines the first time they visited her people. She hates me and was jealous of my beauty and the attention that Gilbert showed me.”

“Did she never show you any love?”

“No, never, we were not a huggy, kissy, lovey-dovey kind of family, Gilbert was always conscious that Isabella was unhappy if he hugged me. She was just jealous that Gilbert might love me more than her. I eavesdropped many times on her complaining. He always kept quiet and this drove her crazy.”

“What about Christmas?”

“It was good when Gilbert gave me lots of presents, but after he died, while other people’s Christmas trees were brimming with presents, she gave me one miserable present. Some cheapskate item bought from a two-dollar shop and always saying we got to budget, while she wasted all her money on her lover boy Jamie.”

“Christine, you have me as your surrogate mum. I will try to make you happy. What was in the past is past. We can look forward to the future.”

Connie continued to support Christine on her path to healing. During one of the prenatal sessions at Middlemore Hospital, Connie massaged Christine’s bulging tummy. When they were having a glass of juice at a nearby McDonalds, they were looking at other mums and their kids. Connie gently asked her if she wanted to know her mysterious blood donor.

“Yes, I will like to thank her, otherwise my baby and I would have died.”

Connie rang Isabella and made an appointment for her to meet Christine. They met at McCafe and standing in front of Christine was an older and mellowed Isabella.

“Christine, here is the woman who gave you life twice.”

“What do you mean, Connie?”

“She gave birth to you and she gave that pint of blood to save you after your accident. Christine, Isabella is your birth mother.”

Christine held back, she didn’t know what to say and what to do. Connie took the two women’s hands and joined them together. They remembered when their few and heated conversation were invariably snappy, screaming and cursing. They usually ended with, “What do you know, you are just a Filipino Mail order bride,” and Christine slamming either her bedroom or the front door.

Isabella’s eyes welled in tears when Christine didn’t pull away her hand.

“Cherish each other, you had lost each other before, don’t miss this chance.”

When Christine’s baby was born, Isabella and Connie held her hand. She was a beautiful brunette baby. The mid wife let them hold the baby for a while.

Then she said, “Better not to dwell too long, otherwise you get too attached to the baby and it will break your heart too much when separation comes.”

With stabs of pain in their hearts, they watch the mid wife take the baby away to the nursery, and then to the eager arms of the new adopted mum. Isabella felt the pang, she remembered how it was when she had to leave Christine when she was born. It was like History repeating.

When Christine was discharged from hospital, she chose to stay with Connie and her family at Mangere. Isabella was quite happy about this arrangement. It was going to take a long time before Christine would fully accept Isabella as her birth mother and forgive all that Isabella had allowed to happen to Christine in the Matt’s filthy business.

Isabella thought to herself, “I can’t blame her for hating me, I would feel the same as her if I was in her shoes.”

Connie followed her Chinese roots and cooked various food specially for women who had delivered babies. Christine enjoyed the molly-coddling by Connie and eating lots of chicken cooked with wine. Connie also massaged her stomach with aromatic oil.

“Look at me, I have two babies and my tummy looks like a wash board.”

“Did Ben marry you because you are Chinese?”

“No, Ben married me because of my beautiful heart.”

Connie was a potter, she had a kiln in her basement studio where she made personalized pots, bowls, mugs, fruit trays, animal figurines, pitchers, jars and novelty items. Together with three other women potters, they took turns exhibiting and selling their craft at Victoria Street Market.

“Hey, Christine, you like to come to Victoria Street market and spend the day with me?”

Christine was happy at the crowded market, talking to the Japanese tourists who came in hordes and bought Connie’s ceramics. When they got home with more orders than Connie could handle, Connie asked Christine if she like to watch her make her ceramics and perhaps give her a hand in kneading the clay.

“Yes, I would like that very much. Will you teach me?”

“You have to be very gentle with the clay, treat it like a baby, don’t hurry.”

Under the guidance of a patient Connie, Christine became a very willing apprentice. Connie taught Christine to use the potter’s wheel.

“What is the difference between pottery and ceramics? Connie?”

“Basically, pottery is sculpturing from raw clay.” Connie took a big lump of clay from her container and gave Christine a lump and kept a lump for herself.

“What do you do with wheel at the corner?”

“That is called the potter’s wheel. Most of the time I use the potter's wheel to shape my pottery. You can have a go on it.”

“Why am I getting funny shapes?’

“You need practice and got to give the clay plenty of TLC, and hold it like you a holding a new born baby, talk to it.”

“Then what do you do with your pottery?”

“I fire the pots in the kiln. I dip them in glaze and then fire them in the kiln and re-fire to give them the glassy surface. ”

“I like the other types where you have painted on the designs of Auckland buildings and marea”

“That is ceramics.”

“Are those brightly coloured plates on the shelf ceramics?”

“Yes, these are cast from moulds, not on the wheel.”

“The ceramics are made from green-ware which is clay that is air-dried. These become bisque-ware which I then paint, glaze and fire in the kiln. “

“I hope to become a good potter like you.”

“Yes, you will, just have plenty of patience.”

In fact Christine had a natural flair in the art. Soon she was pretty good in making her own ceramics, and designed her own patterns on the fruit trays. She drew icons of Auckland like the Auckland Harbour Bridge, Rangitoto Island, Kiwi birds etc. Her ceramics were good enough to be sold and they were snapped up by the passing tourists who came to Victoria Street market.

Connie was invited to teach at the Artstation in Ponsonby. Connie brought Christine along as her assistant. The Artstation is Auckland City's community arts facility and it gave Christine an opportunity to a lot of exposure to meet other creative people.

Connie encouraged Christine to go to the counseling to help remove the devils of her past. Christine had not been able to walk along K Rd or Aotea Square because of the bad memories and things associated with them. Connie accompanied her to those places to reassure her that things were ok. Christine still remained very weary of men, Matt her first lover had used her and earned big bucks from the internet. Kevin, whom she thought treated her as his girl friend, was actually her pimp. The two men had influenced and dominated her in any way they could. Then there were all those dirty old men who paid her pittance and made her do all sorts of disgusting things. She could not trust men again.

Christine’s therapist suggested that Christine take up some sort of martial art to release her pent up anger and to give her confidence. Christine discussed this with Connie, the different types she could train in. There was kick boxing, tea-kwon-do, Chinese qigong and Taichi. Deborah remembered some friends from the university who were doing karate under Leonard Kong and Johnny Ling. They also had a school in Mt Roskill in Wesley Intermediate School hall. Deborah found out the times of the classes. Sam was also interested, so Connie and drove Christine and Sam to observe the first lesson.

Christine was surprised to see so many little kids wearing their gi, the white pajama type of uniform. There were boys as well as girls, and grown ups training in the school hall. Leonard explained to Sam and Christine that they were to address himself and Johnny as Sensei which means teacher or instructor. The discipline was quite relaxed and at the beginning of the class and at the end of the class, you bow to the Sensei. Sam joined the younger kids and Christine joined the older ones. There were three older girls and they connected with Christine. They told her that karate gave them the confidence especially when they walked home alone at night. Once she wore her gi, she felt formidable and she felt like a female warrior out to rid the male scum from the earth.

Connie, Deborah and Ben took turns to drive them on Monday and Wednesday evenings and Saturday afternoon for their training sessions. It was a commitment that the whole family agreed to be involved to help Christine. Christine found that she was enjoying the sessions, and during their mae geri or front kick, and sparring, she imagined that she was kicking and punching Matt and Kevin. She had to shout out kiai as she kicked and punched and the shout released her pent up emotions. Everyday, she practiced with Sam. Leonard was surprised at her deep passion and she was annihilating her opponents with her strong punches and hard kicks. Sam and Christine made a pact, a bet on who would get their black belt first Dan first. Of course, this was done in secret because Sinsei Leonard and Johnny would get very crossed if they heard they were betting.

While she was mixing the clay in Connie’s studio, she was punching the clay so hard and swearing, “Kiai! Kiai! Kiai! Go to hell, Matt! Go to hell Kevin!”

Connie had to resist the temptation of saying, “Hold your horses, Christine,” because she knew that Christine had to release all her anger and punching the clay was better than punching someone else.

When the therapist and Christine felt that Christine was ready, Connie drove Christine to Manukau Memorial Gardens. It had been five years, but it seemed only yesterday that the accident had happened. In front of Christine laid three graves, all laden with fresh and silk flowers and little windmills and toys. At Vince’s grave was a little MG sports car. Christine brought Calla lilies, it was the gang’s favourite flower, Kevin had said that Calla lilies grew wild in the garden. They were like Calla lilies, they grew wild and free. Christine thought of little Vinny who tried very hard to teach her to hot wire stolen cars, and said she was a hopeless pupil. Christine cried aloud and Connie stood aside. Connie knew that Christine had to do that, to get rid of all the ghosts and guilt that she had been harboring. It wasn’t easy being a survivor of a tragedy that had killed three of her good mates.

“Are you ready to go, love?” asked Connie.

“Yes!” wiping her tears with her sleeves.

“Anytime you want to come here, just tell me. If I can’t drive you, Les said he will.”

“How’s Les? I haven’t seen him since before the accident.”

“Les went to see you many times when you were still unconscious in the hospital. He called many times but was afraid you would be angry with him. Cherilani and Reka had forgiven all of you. They say all of you were young kids and didn’t know what you were doing.”

On the Saturdays when Deborah went to volunteer at Radio Rhema, Christine tagged along. She didn’t mind being a tea-lady and making cups of tea or coffee and washing up afterwards. She lingered at the studio to listen and watch the deejays at work. On Sunday evenings, she joined Deborah at the Mangere Baptist Church evening service. The kids were cool and nobody bothered about her past.

One day, the youth group suggested they should hold a missionary outreach to help an overseas youth group. Deborah suggested helping the street kids in Manila. There was a British couple Ian and Dawn who were helping in these kids and they needed more help. She suggested that they to approach the church to organize a silent auction in conjunction with a dinner. Christine was very enthusiastic in getting involved, it was something she could do for her own people back in Philippines. After consulting with Connie, Connie would provide the clay for Christine’s project: Christine would make ten personalized items of mugs or fruit trays. Connie would supply her famous chicken chow mein and Deborah could borrow the band from Radio Rhema and get Radio Rhema to advertise the occasion for them. Isabella offered a three session make-up course for ten girls.

The event was very successful. They raised five thousand dollars for the youth group to buy clothes, toys and books for the street kids. They approached UPS to courier the parcel and the general manager was happy to be of service. Ten of the youth including Deborah and Christine paid for their own fares to meet the street kids in Manila. Isabella was given special permission by the justice department to join the youth and she arranged for them to meet her people who lived in the squalor, living below the poverty line.

The eleven of them arrived in Manila and were met by Ian and his wife Dawn. The group saw first hand how poor the street kids were and they counted their blessings. They were thankful how fortunate and rich they were living in New Zealand in comparison to the poor in the Philippines. To the kids, it was like traveling to a rural time warp: no tap water and electricity. The Kiwi kids saw for themselves how the poor Filipinos lived in simple little bundles of shacks. How they had to draw water from a dirty well, and how some families recycle rubbish from the city dump. When they met Isabella’s parents and Christine’s grandparents, they were very touched by their hospitality.

Christine realized that part of her roots belonged here, and she felt very different towards Isabella.

Christine hugged Isabella and called her, “Mum.” And she really meant it.

Isabella had tears welt in her eyes, her voice choked and she said a silent prayer thanking God that this time she will be accompanying a daughter back to New Zealand knowing that the daughter will love her as a mum.

Isabella continued to be a volunteer beauty therapist at the Middlemore hospital. Most of her time was spent at the burns unit where she taught recovering patients to blend in natural colours to mask their horrible scars. Sometimes she was at the antenatal unit where some pregnant women lie completely in bed for months because of placenta previa, high blood pressure, threatened miscarriages and diabetes. She spent time talking to them and applying make up on them to help elevate the gloomy outlook of these women who fear that their babies might not be born normal. These pregnant ladies were entertained by Isabella’s colorful speech. As she advised them on skin care, make up and massages, she got her English figures of speech all chopped and mixed. They looked forward to her visit as Isabella was very fascinating to listen to. Isabella’s visit was the highlight of an otherwise boring, “complete rest in bed” .

Isabella’s big chance came when one of the Television New Zealand artist got seriously burnt on her face. This artist was impressed by Isabella’s gentle nature and skill. She recommended Isabella to become a makeup artist for the television station. Isabella got the job and did it very well especially handling tantrum-throwing prima donnas. She was entrusted with providing special effects that helped made television shows real, like death, severe burns, deep cuts and bleeding body parts and limbs. Sometimes it was very hard to work on macabre themes especially when she had squeamish actors who didn’t co-operate. But she enjoyed her work.

During one of Isabella’s trips back to the Philippines, she met Gloria Okello at the Manila airport. Gloria was a Filipino who worked for Australian Neville Muir under the umbrella of the Deaf Ministry International. The two ladies chatted while waiting for their flights. Gloria ran the Oyugis Christian School for the Deaf in Kenya. Gloria met Charles, a Kenyan and they were married there. Isabella was very touched by Gloria’s work and pledged to become a regular donor.

When Christine came back from Philippines, she took her ceramics seriously and joined the Auckland Studio Potters in Onehunga. She became an instructor in the studio and held exhibitions.

“Christine, I bumped into someone you knew before you came to stay with us.”


“Kevin, he is a quadriplegic, paralysed from his neck down and moves about in a motorized wheel chair. He is living with his whānau at Mataatua Marae not very far from here. He uses his mouth to paint beautiful posters and greeting cards.”

“I hate him!”

“He told me to tell you how sorry he is and asked if he could see you sometime.”

“No! Connie! Never! I don’t want to see that monster again. Every time I think of him, I want to pommel his face so bad that he won’t be able to exchange a hongi for the rest of his life.”

Connie knew the healing had not been completed. Christine was still full of anger. Given enough time and counseling, Connie prayed that Christine would release all those pent up hatred and angry emotions so she could move on. Connie was privileged to be given this enormous task to walk along with Christine, hurt when she feels hurt. All Connie had, was time. Christine was still a young girl.

There are two endings; and the readers can choose which ending they like or they can read both endings.

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