THE FIRST FALL
That's what she was.
Bright. A thing of life. A thing that could burn.
And this heart, it beat only for her.
It could murder for her. For love. For Sunshine.
She returned home two hundred and seventeen days after burying her husband while his pregnant mistress sobbed so hard that she made herself sick. Anahera had stood stone-faced, staring down at the gleaming mahogany coffin she'd chosen because that was what Edward would've wanted. Quiet elegance and money that didn't make itself obvious, that had been Edward's way. Appearances above everything.
His friends had looked at her with sympathetic eyes, believing her grief so great that she couldn't cry.
And all the while, Edward's mistress sobbed. No one knew her.
Anahera hadn't explained who the woman was. And she hadn't cried. Not then. Not since.
Now, she drove the dark green Jeep she'd bought sight unseen over the internet and arranged to have delivered to the airport that had been the last stop in her long plane trek from London.
Christchurch, New Zealand.
A land at the bottom of the world. So far south that she'd felt no surprise when their pilot pointed out a cargo plane being loaded with freight bound for an Antarctic research station.
How many hours had it been since she walked through the departure gate at Heathrow?
She'd lost count somewhere between yesterday and tomorrow.
Between the gray drizzle of a city full of theaters and museums and the cold sunlight of a barely civilized land adrift in the ocean.
Edward had liked cities.
He and Anahera had never driven through such a primal and untamed landscape together, the trees born of ancient seeds, and the ferns huge and green and singing a song of homecoming.
Tauti mai, hoki mai.
And this moment a whisper from the end of her journey, she stood on a jagged cliff looking out over the crashing sea below as fog wove through the treetops, a light misty rain falling and dissipating before it ever got to her.
Dark gray water smashed against unforgiving black rock, sending up a frothy white spray that disappeared under the violence of the next crashing wave. The water went on endlessly, a tumultuous vastness that was nothing like the European beaches she'd visited with Edward. You couldn't swim in the water below, not unless you wanted to be swept out into the cold arms of the ocean, but its beauty spoke to Anahera's heart, made it ache.
She could watch it forever, might just do that once she reached the cabin. Josie told her it was still standing—and that no one had smashed in the windows.
Maybe it had been out of respect. Perhaps out of fear. To some, the cabin was a place of ghosts.
To Josie, it was where she and Anahera had once sat on the porch and laughed, two nineteen-year-olds with their whole lives ahead of them. Her best friend from high school was the only person with whom Anahera had kept in touch after she left Golden Cove, and she'd told Josie not to bother worrying about keeping an eye on the place.
After all, Anahera was never going to come back.
Turning away from the cliff, she got into the Jeep and started it up. Driving inland and away from the crashing sea—it was an illusion, the sea still there, just hidden by the trees—she drove the last ten minutes to the edge of forever. The sign startled her. Golden Cove hadn't had a sign when she'd left. Only an old gumboot on a fencepost that Nikau Martin had put there when they were eleven.
For some reason, the adults had never taken it off.
But it was gone now, and in its place stood a gleaming sign that said: HAERE MAI, with GOLDEN COVE lettered in swirling font below, and WELCOME below that. She went past, then stopped and looked back to see that, from this side, it said, HAERE RA, with GOLDEN COVE below, and under that, FAREWELL.