Lani Wendt Young
From Washington D.C, comes Leila, a young woman in search of family, a place to belong. Instead she finds her destiny and it threatens to tear her apart. There is the bewitching call of a Telesā sisterhood and there is Daniel. Will Leila embrace her birthright or will she choose the one who offers her his love with a crooked smile and dancing green eyes? Will Daniel be the element that gentles the fire of the Telesā? Or must love burn at the altar of the Telesā coven…
This is a new New Zealand edition of a previously released book by author Lani Wendt Young.
I woke with a startled gasp, sheets a tangled mess around me, my shirt soaked through with sweat. Pulse racing, I tried to calm my ragged breathing but the room was so stifling I needed to get out. Hoping Aunt Matile hadn’t woken with the sounds of my nightmare, I slipped silently through the sleeping house and out into the garden. Sitting on an upturned plastic bucket under the fragrant branches of the frangipani tree, I breathed deeply in the night air.
What did it mean? Where had that dream come from? Was I losing my mind? Was all the pressure of being in this alien land, searching for information about a mother that no-one wanted to talk about finally getting to me? Fluffy chickens roosting in the breadfruit trees rustled and clucked close by and Terminator strolled over to snuffle hopefully against my fingers. It was just a dream, I kept repeating to myself as I quietly crept back to my room. But sleep was a long time coming.
The rest of the week was uneventful. I was slipping into a routine with Matile and Tuala. I didn’t ask any more questions about my mother. They were kind and careful. I was polite and helpful. I washed dishes. Matile smiled with startled surprise. I helped Tuala sweep up the cut grass. He brought me an ice cold Diet Coke back from the corner store. I gave Terminator a much-needed bath. Which he hated me for. And which made Matile laugh. I had not given up on my search for information about my mother though. I risked Matile’s wrath and asked Kolio about her when he came to weed the banana patch at the back. He must have been warned by Tuala and Matile not to say anything though – because he only looked uneasy and shook his head, ” don’t know anything. I don’t know anyone like that.” Falute was the same. I went outside to help her hang up the laundry, and in-between pegging up lemon-fresh sheets, I asked,
“So, did you know my mother?”
At first she acted dumb. “Who? I don’t know anything about that subject. No, I know nothing.”
“But you’re part of the family, you’re Matile’s cousin, surely you must have known her? You must have at least heard something about her?”
She only shook her head vehemently. “No. I don’t want to talk about her.” She turned to walk away and then stopped to look back and consider my crestfallen expression. She sighed, looked around to make sure we were alone and then leaned forward to whisper, “Your mother was a bad woman. It was good your father took you away from here. It is better you don’t ask about her. Better you don’t know about her. I’m sorry, that’s all I can say.”
And with that she bustled back into the house carrying an empty laundry basket on her hip. I stood there in the yard in disbelief. Your mother was a bad woman. I felt cold in the tropical sun because I could no longer ignore what was glaringly obvious. Matile and everybody else weren’t being cagey about my mother because she was too sad or emotional a subject for them to handle. It was because the topic of my mother was too unpleasant. Heck, Falute even looked afraid just to speak of her. But why?
School in Samoa was satisfying. I was attentive and studious. I smiled at all the right times. And tried hard not be rude with Sinalei when she insisted on keeping me company every interval. I had never had friends before, so wasn’t used to how they occupied one’s space and time. Even when you didn’t want them to. But I was learning. Simone was still gracing me with his presence and I had to admit that I found myself more relaxed with him than with anyone else. He seemed to have bestowed his approval upon me and regularly called me to sit with him and his group of girl-boys. Flawlessly beautiful, graceful supermodels all of them. I laughed to think what my dad would say about my new ‘clique’ of friends. In fact, everything seemed to be going fine in this new place. I kept my distance from the Chunk Hunk. Every time I saw him, I did an abrupt about turn and went in the opposite direction. He always stood out, so that wasn’t difficult. We only had one class together so it was easy to ignore him. It wasn’t as easy to stop thinking about the green eyes and the tattooed arm. But I persevered. I reminded myself he was in a different stratosphere from me. And I wasn’t here to get to know the opposite sex. Or to explore this new-found edge that one in particular inspired in me. No. I was here for three months to find out what I could about my mother. And to get to know my Samoan family. And to have a break from my palagi family. The slight unease Daniel inspired in me was the only complaint I really had about my new school. Samoa College wasn’t bad. If it weren’t for the nights, I would have been almost content.
Yes, if it weren’t for the nights, Samoa would have been more than bearable. Because every night was the same thing. I slept. I had the same nightmare. I woke up burning hot and couldn’t stop the shaking. The gasping for air. The dream was the same every night. But the heat seemed to be getting worse. I slept with a fan. I slept in the bare minimum. I drank copious amounts of ice water. No improvement. I was trying my best to keep it hidden from Matile and Tuala because I was terrified that I had some sort of disease and it would give them an excuse to send me back to America. I bought a cheap thermometer from the pharmacy. Every night before I went to bed I would take my temperature. 36.5 degrees. Completely normal and textbook perfect. By midnight I would be burning up with some kind of fever. 42 degrees. I took illegal amounts of painkillers. Nothing. According to the textbooks, I should be practically comatose. I stopped taking my temperature. It only increased my agitation.
The weeks passed. I had been in Samoa for four weeks and my nights were taking their toll on my days. At school I was exhausted. I found it hard to concentrate. Ms Sivani was giving me her stern eyes. The ones she reserved for Maleko on his worst days. I was finding it harder to be patient with Sinalei – looking for more and more excuses to spend my lunch break in the library. Where I would pore through science textbooks and Google unexplained fevers. I ignored Maleko’s teasing invitations to run in PE class, choosing instead to cut class and risk detention rather than an overheating episode in front of everyone. The Principal shook his head tiredly at me in detention as he reminded me that “we are not a school for teenage delinquents from America you know.”
By the fifth week, I was afraid to go to sleep. When I woke up with strange singe marks on my sheets like burnt holes, I sobbed silently into my pillow. That’s it, I had to get out of there. I left the house in the dead of night, slipping through the broken fence at the back of the house and into the green trees. Stars hung heavily in a black velvet night. The cool air was bliss against my skin and I walked almost blindly through the bush. I should have been afraid. Of the dark, the strange surroundings, the possibility of danger. But I wasn’t. I felt oddly at ease. Like something outside, out there had been missing from inside me. I walked and, as I walked, I started to cool down. The dizziness eased. The rising tide of fever burn slowed. And then suddenly, there it was. I took several steps and stopped. It was a pool of silver water that tumbled over a low rocky drop into another larger oval pool below. Ringed with glistening black rock and olive green ferns. Just like in my dream. Only, unlike my dream, there was no darkly beautiful woman waiting there for me.
I breathed a sigh of relief. And ignored the rational voice inside my head that demanded to know how I could possibly have dreamed of this place before I ever visited it? Without even stopping to think, I stripped off my shirt and shorts and slipped into the water. I caught my breath with happiness at the coldness, the relief it gave me from the heat that had plagued me for so many nights. It was as if this exact water had been waiting for me, calling to me. Again and again I ducked my head under the water, cooling every particle of my being. Every feverish fibre. I stayed there as long as I dared before heading back home to my still room, grateful that Matile and Tuala were heavy sleepers. And, for the first time in weeks, I slept without dreaming. And woke without a fever.
I went three wonderful nights without a heat attack, enjoying the luxury of a full night’s sleep. At school I was almost myself again. Just when I thought maybe I had imagined the heat flushes, they started again, waking me with their fire. Again I went to the pool, praying Terminator wouldn’t tell on me and wake Matile with his howling at the moon. And again, the water was exactly the antidote I needed.
As the nights improved – so did the days. I stopped spacing out in class, falling asleep in Math to the drone of Mr William’s voice. I still didn’t think it safe enough to try doing sports again so I kept cutting PE. Which landed me in detention. Again.
This is an excerpt from Chapter 3 of Telesā Book 1 – The Covenant Keeper by Lani Wendt Young, published by OneTree House, 2018. Previously published as an ebook and pbook by Lani Wendt Young. OneTree House is re-publishing the rest of the Telesā series in 2019.
Telesā Book 1: The Covenant Keeper
by Lani Wendt Young
Published by OneTree House