Sunday, 28 April 2013

Candy is Finished!

So a while ago I posted a snippet of the short story that I have been working on, Candy.   I have finally finished a draft that I think is good enough for everyone to read and give me some feedback on to make it better.  So here it is, let me know what you think works or doesn't work and just anything you feel like sharing to help me out.


By Morwenna Petaia

My name is Candice Palemia, but people call me Candy.  You would think that Candy is a shortened version of my name Candice, but it’s not.  My Uncle Iosua came to visit from Hawaii when I was just learning to speak.  Being Samoan he brought over an oso, which is a cultural tradition of bringing a gift to those you are visiting.  Uncle Iosua brought over a whole bunch of Hersheys chocolate kisses and nuggets.  Living in Australia we call them chocolates, but being American Uncle Iosua called them candy.  When I indicated for some he wouldn’t give me any until I called them candy.  Even after I cried and cried and rolled on the floor stopping only to bang my forehead on the ground he would not budge.  I tried and tried first it was tandy, then it was gandy then two weeks later it happened, I stood in front of Uncle Iosua with my outstretched hand barely reaching his knee and asked “candy?”  I was so happy to get my candy that anytime I saw someone I put my hand out and asked “candy?”  Even after the bags of candy were finished I would still ask people for candy.  This went on until I was around three.  Ever since then I have always been called Candy.

In Samoa names usually have some sort of significance.  For example my dad’s name is Fata, he is named after his father Fata who was named after his father, Fata.  Fata has been the name of the eldest son in my dad’s family for the last five generations.  Then there was a girl I went to school with at Leifiifi College; she was named Anzac Day because she was born on ANZAC Day.  Names are really important in the Samoan culture, particularly your last name because it is through your family name that you represent your aiga, your family, siblings, parents and grandparents.

The Palemia family has attended Samoa College for years and years.  Ever since I started school my dad had always told me that I need to study hard and get good grades so that I can be like him and his siblings and parents and great grandparents and great great grandparents who all attended Samoa College, the college where all the smart people go.  As hard as I studied and listened in all of my classes I just didn’t get the grades that would give me a place or an award in any of my year levels.  Even with my less than great grades, my dad still had the expectation that I would follow in his footsteps and attend Samoa College.  When my results came in telling me what school I got into I was not at all surprised that I didn’t get into Samoa College, heck I didn’t even get into Avele College that was how bad my grades were.  Needless to say I heard the whole spiel from my dad, “you are a disappointment to our family.  You are the first person in our family since the beginning of time who will not be attending Samoa College.  Do you realize the shame that you have brought to our family?  How could you do this to us?”  The burden of being a Palemia felt heavy on my shoulders, especially being an only child, as I tried to live with the fact that I had failed my family and killed my father’s dream of having a child follow in his educational path.  Who could have imagined the weight one would feel from trying to live up to a family name.

All my life we moved back and forth between Samoa and Australia.  Mum’s a palagi from Australia and would always get homesick so we’d move between our house in Holsworthy in Sydney and my dad’s family house in Vaivase Uta.  We moved to Sydney again half way through year 10 in high school.  I went to All Saints Catholic School.   You would not believe the teasing the kids were capable of, especially over a name.  Our science teacher’s name was Mr Cox.  As you can imagine the minds of sex crazed teenagers, who had nothing else on their minds but that three lettered word, made vulgar remarks about our teacher’s name.  One day in science class while Mr Cox was at the whiteboard one boy yelled ‘Dick’ from the back of the room.  Mr Cox turned around and asked who said it, no one confessed so Mr Cox said the whole class would be on detention.  He turned around to write on the board and a different boy yelled out ‘Willy’, this time Mr Cox ignored the yelling.  That is when it got worse, students all around the room started yelling out different words for the male reproductive organ.  By this time Mr Cox had turned around but as hard as he tried he couldn’t regain control of the class.  The yelling went on for what seemed like half an hour, with loud laughter mixed in.  On the outside Mr Cox looked like a strong man.  At close to six feet tall he towered over all of us, he purposely wore tight t-shirts to show off the muscles that lay hidden beneath cotton.  Yet even with the stature of a warrior the name calling of ego driven teenagers brought him to tears and pushed him to flee for serenity into the class storeroom.

This was a complete culture shock to my days at Leifiifi College where speaking out of turn was considered disrespectful and not tolerated by any teachers let alone the students.  I sat like a stunned mullet in my chair still trying to process what had just happened.  How could they do that?  Do they not know the shame that it will bring to their families when they find out about what they had done?

It was my third week at school and I was finding it a little hard fitting in.  I found that I didn’t do things the way the other kids did, I didn’t think the same way they did.  I looked like I would fit in with my green eyes and straight chestnut hair flowing down past my olive skinned shoulders, I could have been palagi or Greek or Italian.  The only thing that gave me away was my last name and slight Samoan accent.  So when I was befriended by Kayla I was a little apprehensive as to why the hot popular girl was trying to be my friend.  Kayla and her friends invited me to hang with them at ‘the spot’ a concrete area behind the toilet block and across from the canteen for easy access to food.  It was so much fun we shared food and talked about teachers and the other kids.  Some of them would then go to the lower oval and smoke; too scared to try I just tagged along for fun while wondering what was so good about smoking.  I mean seriously it stunk and made you smell like a chimney no matter how much deodorant you spray on your clothes to cover it up.

I was becoming a little lonely and homesick, noticing how much I missed my friends from Leifiifi and how we would joke and share thoughts on everything together.  What I missed most was speaking in Samoan.  I may not look Samoan, but it is my first language and the one that I am most comfortable with.  Kayla was such a cool person, which helped me a little.  She was more than just pretty and popular; she was actually smart and cared about her education and her future, which was good for me because my grades were pretty atrocious.    We became pretty close, I was comfortable enough with her that I was able to confide in her some of my feelings that I didn’t think I would be able to say to anyone here, like the fact that I thought David liked me because he keeps texting me, but I never gave him my number or that I think Pooja has ukus cause she is always scratching her head and I actually saw something crawling around her hairline near her right ear.  Kayla was great about it too affirming my thoughts that a boy actually liked me and that she too had seen the same creepy crawlies in Pooja’s hair.

It became almost a ritual where every Friday night for the last two months I would finish school, walk to my house and get my stuff then I would go to Kayla’s place to sleep over.  This Friday was just like the others but what happened that night changed everything.  Kayla and I lay in our boxers and singlet on mattresses we had moved from the beds to the floor.  Kayla has a big room with a massive 52 inch plasma TV on her wall so we usually eat chips, chocolate, ice cream any kind of junk food you can think of and watch TV series like One Tree Hill, Revenge and Gossip Girl.

We lay side by side on the mattresses watching Glee repeats from the second season, you can never have enough Glee!  It was the Britney Spears episode and Britney and Santana were performing the ‘Me against the Music’ song.  I turned to tell Kayla that I thought Britney looked hot and that I wished my dentist looked like John Stamos.  Before I could get a word out I felt the rose petal soft lips of beautiful Kayla against mine.  While I was shocked and a little freaked out I actually enjoyed it.  I could taste Kayla’s bubblegum flavoured lip gloss mixed with the Doritos that she was just eating.  We separated and there was a moment of awkward silence.  I sat up and kept looking everywhere else but at Kayla.  Shivers ran down my spine as Kayla gently placed her delicate kisses down my neck.  My mind was screaming ‘stop, wait, what’s happening?’ but my body was just screaming in ecstasy.  I battled with the thoughts of what would happen if my family found out and whether or not I was gay the rest of the night which was filled with amazing kisses, cuddles, laughs and food.

The next morning I had to wake up early cause mum wanted me to come home and help clean out our garage.  I got up and changed and woke Kayla up to say good bye.  We didn’t have time to talk about what had happened the night before it was just a quick kiss and a promise to text later.  I kept my phone by my side the whole time waiting for a text from Kayla, but nothing.  Later that night I even sent a blank text because I wanted to hear from her, but I didn’t know what to say.  I didn’t get a text, a facebook comment or even a phone call from Kayla all weekend long.  I was stressing out by Sunday night, stalking her facebook page to see if she had been online and said anything but no activity at all.  I was positive that she was avoiding me and that something was wrong, I mean there was no other explanation that made sense after what we shared on Friday night.

Almost shaking with nerves I walked into the school building Monday morning.  I didn’t know how I should act, do I ask Kayla why she was ignoring me or do I just act like nothing happened.  I didn’t have to make any decisions because Kayla made the first move.  As I walked to my locker there she was her long, dark Kim Kardashian styled hair lightly framing her fair skinned face.  The blue of the school uniform jumper made her azure eyes leap out and hypnotise you with their beauty.  She was truly magnificent leaning against her locker.  Kayla’s locker was two lockers away from mine as she went to close the locker her striking blue eyes met mine.  There was no emotion on her face; it was as if she looked right through me.  After closing her locker she walked straight past me no hello, no head nod it was as if she didn’t even know I was there.

I was confused, angry and sad all at once; angrier than anything else which for some reason made me want to ball my eyes out.  I ran to the bathroom locked myself in the toilet stall and cried.  I let it all out and cried till I could cry no more.  I started with the loud drool and snotty sob crying while yelling curses at Kayla in my mind.  Then came the angry crying; with fist punches to the walls, berating myself for being so stupid for thinking that Kayla was my friend. Seriously how could someone like her want to be friends with you?  Followed by the hysterical laughing cry where memories of how good things were made you smile but brought that stinging pain that you had to crack up in laughter only to have the river of tears follow.  I spent the whole morning in the toilet crying.  When I thought that I had my tears under control I gathered the strength to escape to the sick bay with the hopes they will call my parents to come and get me.

When my mum came to pick me up I literally ran to her and gave her a big hug with tears welling in my eyes.  No matter how hard life is or how much pain you feel it all feels better with a hug from your mum.  Unlike most times there was no line of interrogation from my mum, just a single question “are you ok?”  I just nodded knowing that if I opened my mouth to speak all I would do was end up crying again.  When I got home I went straight to my room and cried myself to sleep.

After a week of not getting out of bed and moping around the house my parents had enough.  Their patience had worn thin and while trying to understand what I was going through the fact that I wouldn’t talk to them about any of my feelings made it hard to know what to do.  In the end the ultimatum to go to school or go to see a psychologist made me get up and go to school.  I couldn’t form the words to say how I felt even if I wanted to tell someone how I was feeling.

School started off fine at first then after lunch I noticed the snickering behind my back and then there were the stares as I walked down the hall.  That lurking feeling in the pit of your stomach where you know something is wrong you just didn’t know what was on the verge of being vomited out when all of a sudden it made sense. 

I picked out the wrinkled piece of paper from the rubbish bin next to my locker.  Mixed into the wrinkles you could make out a girl in a lacy black bra and matching boy leg style underwear with her left leg wrapped around a bed post her back arched down toward the ground with her hair hanging in the air.  I didn’t recognize that the photo was of me, what caught my eye was the wording on the side which said “For a Good Time Call Candy 1-800-STRIPPER.”

I have had a bit of a complex with my nick name Candy, I know how I got it and was proud of the origin story but the complex stemmed from its association with strippers and prostitutes, but no one has ever said anything to my face or even behind my back.  The only person with whom I had shared this fear with was Kayla.  With this new found knowledge I took a closer look at the photo and realized that it was me on a Friday night at Kayla’s house after we had just watched some Pussy Cat Dolls music videos and we were messing around and pretending to dance like they did.  We had promised each other that we would delete the photos and they would never see the light of day, but obviously she had lied again.

The world went black.  I couldn’t think, I couldn’t feel; my life just took a very dark turn and there was no way of changing it.  My books fell to the ground and I just walked.  I didn’t know where I was going I just knew that I needed to get away from school, from her, from everything.  I couldn’t even register my exact feelings.  I couldn’t cry I couldn’t get angry and throw things or yell or shout I was numb and felt lost in a far off place.  My legs just kept moving I didn’t even realize that I was walking till I heard the loud sound of a horn and I looked up to see the car followed by the screeching of the car tyres braking hard against the road then everything went quiet.

My eyes blinked trying to adjust to the light.  Once they were able to focus I looked around and didn’t recognize where I was and couldn’t remember what I was doing before the quiet and darkness had set in.  Things were still a little fuzzy and my body ached all over.  Then I saw mum sitting in the chair in the corner. 
“muuum,” I managed to whisper because speaking felt so alien to me.  Mum got up straight away and was by my side in a flash and began planting kisses all over my face.

“Are you ok baby?  How do you feel?  Are you hungry?  Do you need anything?”  The barrage of questions continued for what seemed like years till she managed to take a breath and I saw my opportunity to speak.
“What happened?  Where am I?”  She pulled the chair next to the bed and sat down.

“You are in the hospital baby girl.  There was an accident and you were hit by a car.  You were very lucky that the car wasn’t travelling fast.  You walked away with only a broken leg a few scratches and a lot of bruises.”

“But how did I get on the road?  I was at school, I don’t understand?”

“We don’t know either.  Has something been happening at school?  Because the last week you have been moping around the house then when you finally get up and go to school you end up getting run over by a car on the main road at least 10km away from your school.  You know you can talk to me Candy, I’m your mum and I am always going to be here for you if you need me.”

That’s when the tears flowed.  I wanted to get up and give her a massive hug but any kind of movement no matter how small made me wince in pain.  I let everything out and with each word uttered and tear shed I felt the longed for feelings of peace set in.

I could tell by mum’s facial expressions that she was not impressed by certain things that I had to say and had some questions but she didn’t interrupt, she just listened and cried along with me.  When I was finished she reassured me that it would all be ok and that’s when the police came in.

According to Senior Constable Fitzsimmons there were several reports that I had walked dangerously throughout the area and while many people had tried to caution me I had just continued and walked directly into the road where the car hit me.  Senior Constable Fitzsimmons then told us, “A law that was recently introduced makes it mandatory in situations where people have tried to harm themselves that they spend at least two weeks in a counseling facility where they are taught different strategies to deal with problems as well as helping to deal with old issues.  We are here to inform you that once you have physically recovered you will be required to attend The Fountain Counseling Facility.”

I’m not crazy, I thought to myself.  Why do I need to go to this place?  This is stupid.  Are they serious!?  Questions just ran through my head till I realized the amount of crap the other students will give me when they found out.  Not only will I be a stripper but I will go down in history as Candy the crazy stripper!

My mum and dad thought it was a good idea, because they didn’t know how to help me.  So a month later when my injuries had healed I was taken to The Fountain.  It looked a little like a haunted house from the outside.  It was an old two storey white building with dark green windows set on a hill.  There were no neighbors, just a lot of trees.  From my room upstairs you could see the white waves smashing against the coastline through the trees.  From the shared bathroom you could see the gorgeous green hills rolling behind the facility.  It was beautiful, almost as if I were in Samoa coming down the cross island road towards Apia.  The view alone made me feel like I was going to be ok here, that I had nothing to worry about.

We started our group therapy sessions that afternoon.  Our counselor was a guy named Eric; he looked like he was in his late twenties.  He was balding so he kept his head shaven, a stocky awkward looking man with a massive beer gut.  Nothing at all to look at, just a cheeky smile that made you know he had a few stories to tell.  The session went really well, Eric took time to listen to everyone and his humour made you comfortable with sharing how you felt.

The two weeks went by really fast.  I almost didn’t want to leave.  I learned so much about myself and how to deal with my feelings.  I felt like I could take on the world.  The biggest thing that I discovered about myself was how much I really wanted to go back to Samoa.  So when I got home I told my parents that I would like to return to Samoa.  Obviously they were worried and sad with my request, heck my dad even made me cry with his guilt trips, but they knew that it was what I needed to progress and get better.  Some people could say that me going to Samoa is running away from my problems, I say it is making a choice to free myself of things that only cause me heartache and pain.  Either way I am happy, my family are happy and to hell with what anyone else says!

I had been away from Samoa for almost a year, but it still felt the same.  Little things had changed a few new buildings and different colours on houses but most things remained the same like the works on the road between Apia and the airport and the beautiful churches that soared above the houses in the villages.  My excitement just kept growing as we made the drive past Samoa College, down the winding road that shot up the mountain almost like a roller coaster ride as we made our way to my home in Vaivase Uta. 

While my parents have their own home in Samoa, there is no way they were about to let their 16 year old daughter stay by herself.  So my Aunt, Uncle and cousins Eseta, Pena and Leti from Vaisala in Savaii came to stay with me.  While they were a little different to my own family, me being an only child, I was looking forward to being around people.  With Eseta being 15 and a girl we automatically clicked.  It took a while to get used to having Pena and Leti in the house though, because I had never lived with boys before.  While they often grossed me out with their dirty shoes and stinky clothes having them around was a great experience.  They showed me respect and were examples of how a guy should treat a woman as well as the loyalty and respect that they showed their sister and parents.

I knew that if I went to school and a guy tried to pinch my bum as I walked past or say any kind of derogatory comment I could just tell Pena or Leti and they would sort them out for me.  Having brothers was pretty cool, especially after school when they would go and play rugby on the big field near our house.  Eseta and I could use them as an excuse to sit and perve, secretly hoping that it would be a hot day and the guys with six packs would take their tops off.

I loved being back home.  There were the usual teenage dramas, but nothing that compared to the life of a teenager in Australia.  One day we had gone down to Lynns for some fresh bread, I ran in to get it and bumped into someone I never thought that I would see again, Eric.  He still looked exactly the same; I on the other hand had matured in the two years since we last saw each other and was ‘popping’ in all the right places.  It turns out he is working in Samoa as a counselor at the Coral Reef Academy, he arrived a month ago and will be here for another year.  He didn’t have a car so we offered him a ride home to Leufisa.  I gave him my number and said if he needed anything or wanted to come over for dinner he was most welcome.

The next week Eric started texting, just the friendly how are you kind of texts.  Then I would get bored and texted to see how he was doing.  This went on for about two weeks then Eric asked if I wanted to have lunch with him and I am never one to say no to free food so I agreed.  He took me to the Yacht Club where I had the yummy poke followed by the shrimp and then cake and ice-cream for dessert.  We had a great time, we ate and talked and laughed and ate some more I really enjoyed it.  I remembered how funny he was and how comfortable I felt sharing my feelings with him.  While Eric was never going to be good looking like Channing Tatum, the way he spoke and how he made me feel special was sexier than any strip tease Channing could ever do.  We continued to text and meet up for lunches for about a month and then it happened.  We were eating fried chicken in the back tables at Freddy’s in Motootua and Eric had said something funny and I was laughing then our eyes met and we went quiet, just stared at each other for what seemed like an hour, I don’t know what it was but it took my breath away and I just couldn’t move, then he leant in and softly kissed me.  I know I was enjoying the kiss but my eyes exploded open and I pulled away quickly realizing where I was and that people might see me.

From then on we started eating lunches at Eric’s place.  Our lunches lasted longer and our texts were combined with midnight phone calls and eventually our kisses at lunch led to love making sessions sometimes without lunch.  I knew with every fibre of my being that I was in love with Eric.  He was my friend and he knew me better than my parents did at this time and I knew him like I knew the back of my hand.  I was deliriously happy.  The only thing that made me blue was knowing that he would be leaving to go back to Australia at Christmas.  I didn’t like to dwell on this so I made the most of my time with Eric.  When I wasn’t in school or doing the feaus I was with him, I didn’t even have time to do my field perve sessions with Eseta.  I used the time to do my homework so that I wouldn’t get punished for falling behind in my school work.  It was weird because even though I spent all this time with Eric my grades had never been better.

A year went on and Eric left before my school year finished.  But I wasn’t as sad as I would have been if I didn’t know that because of our good grades my parents paid for me, Pena, Leti and Eseta to come and visit them in Australia instead of them coming back to Samoa.  I kept it a secret from Eric as I wanted to surprise him when I got to Sydney.  It was really difficult to bring the waterworks on; even though I would miss him for all of 7 days it was a lot harder than I thought to hide my smile and joy.

As I parked the car and double checked the address I started to get nervous but excited and ecstatic at the same time.  Walking up the driveway I noticed my hands were shaking and I couldn’t stop it.  I rang the doorbell and heard the pattering of little feet followed by some heavier steps near the door.  I thought it may be Eric chasing his dog then the door swung open.  I stood there with my mouth hanging open with a look of confusion and shock on my face.  The lady standing in the doorway with a toddler on her hip breathlessly apologized “sorry I need to catch my breath I had to chase this little one down the hall to make sure she didn’t open the door.  How can I help you?”

I stood staring at the little girl with her curly blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes, I thought she was so cute.  Still a little confused I said “Hi, I am looking for Eric?  I’m sorry I’m not sure if I have the right place?”

“You have the right place; Eric is at work right now.”  Then she looked down at her daughter and tickled her on the side saying “we are waiting for daddy aren’t we honey!”

I felt sick.  I didn’t want to believe it but when the little girl smiled her cheeky little smile there is no way that I could deny that was his daughter.

The lady must have seen my reaction because she asked if I was ok.  I couldn’t answer, my brain just wouldn’t work.  She must have started to get suspicious because her tone changed from a welcoming and friendly one to a more irritated one as she asked if she could help me.  Then I felt it, my mouth filled with saliva and before I knew it I was hurling my McDonalds breakfast at this woman’s feet.  At that point all my previous feelings were replaced with shame and embarrassment.  I apologized profusely and offered to clean it all up.  The mother in her came out as she quickly gathered me inside and hosed down and disinfected the front entrance while I cleaned up and put on one of her t-shirts.

She sat me down at the table and offered me a drink.  She sat opposite me and introduced herself.  “My name is Lucy, Eric is my fiancĂ©.  Who are you?”

At this point I was over feeling sorry for myself and began feeling like a trashy home wrecking whore.  Lucy is a lovely woman who has already shown me great kindness and she doesn’t even know my name.  How do I now tell her that her fiancĂ© was cheating on her with me?  When I didn’t say anything Lucy began talking again.

“I know that this may sound weird but you are not the first girl to show up at my house.  It may be easier if you begin with your name and how you know Eric.”

OMG can this woman be any nicer I thought to myself, and the fact that she is so calm just made me angry that Eric could be such a big fat pig!

I sat and explained the situation to Lucy.  She then went on to tell me that she has been with Eric for the last five years.  He had changed when their daughter Laura was born.  His trip to Samoa was a break for them to see whether or not they wanted to truly be together.  The fact that he came back to Lucy showed that he wanted to make the commitment to the relationship and to being a father to Laura.  Lucy had no idea that I existed and that he had not changed.

While I was completely devastated that I had been used and discarded like a piece of toilet paper it is weird because it is the same techniques that Eric taught me at The Fountain that helped me to deal with my feelings and to not fall into depression.

I went home and instead of holding my feelings in I disregarded my shame and fear of how my parents would react to my being so reckless and told them the whole story, every single detail.  My mum being palagi was very understanding, as I knew she would be, but my dad’s reaction was far from the raging I had imagined.  He calmly expressed his gratitude for me being able to share my situation with them and imparted his great disappointment in my actions and deception.  I could see and feel the pain in his eyes and it hurt so much more than any beating or yelling he could have done.  But I learned my lesson and there was no way that I was going to put myself in a situation where I would cause so much pain and heartache to my family, because they are the ones who are there for me no matter what; not the backstabbing pretty girl who pretended to be my friend or the lying cheating pig who professed his love for me.

Later that night there was a knock on the door.  Leti answered and I heard his voice, it was Eric.  Leti called for Pena.  I love my brothers and knew their love for me was great, but being in Australia it didn’t dawn on me that they would show that love the same way that they would in Samoa.  Before I could register what was happening I heard the thuds of Leti and Pena’s fists as they pummeled Eric’s face followed by a crash as Eric fell back into the pot plants.  Before I could make my way to the front door I could hear Eseta egging them on “Kui le guku.  Kiki oga fua.”

“Stop! Ua lava ga!”  I yelled at them as I gave Eseta the evil eye.

As much as I hated Eric, as he lay there blood pouring from his face I only felt pity for him.  Not pity because he was hurt, a little part of me was happy to see all the blood.  Pity because he had everything; a great reputation as a counselor, a beautiful and kind woman who loved him and the most gorgeous child and yet he still didn’t know their value.

I helped Eric to his feet.  He tried to apologise but after mumbling a few ums and ahs I firmly said “leave!  I don’t want to hear your lame apology.  I don’t want anything to do with you.  You disgust me and I can’t believe you had the nerve to be such a horrible human being to such a good woman and worst of all, your own daughter.  I am not the person you should be groveling to.  Leave my house and never speak to me again!”

I turned, walked inside the house and closed the door leaving him standing in my front yard. 

Six weeks passed fast and our trip was coming to an end and Eric didn’t come to mind as often now.  The boys, Eseta and I thought it would be good to go out to a night club before we head back to Samoa.  I was 20 and legally able to go out and drink in Australia, but I have lived in Samoa most my life and there is no way in hell I would be going to a club there.  So I was a little nervous but convinced that this was something I needed.  Eseta and I put on our pretty dresses and the boys borrowed some of my dad’s dress shoes because all they had were their thongs and we heard that there were pretty strict dress codes in Australia.

We got inside Arq and robotically looked around not knowing what to do next.  Then I saw the bar and did an awkward head down fast walk, almost a run straight there, the others just followed me.  The bartender came up and stood in front of me.  I stood there staring back not knowing what to order then the song rum and redbull came on and that was what I ordered for all of us.  The bartender chuckled a little then turned away and prepared our drinks.  It was disgusting!  But the bartender was staring at me so I had to pretend that it was ok.  I turned my head so the bartender couldn’t see me make my ‘gosh that’s gross’ face.

I could see Pena and Leti talking and looking toward the dance floor.  In the middle of the dance floor there were girls dancing.  One girl had a gorgeous blue ruffle dress with red heels and legs that went on for miles.  With my drink in my hand I turned around in my seat to face the dance floor so I could watch them dancing.  I was distracted and forgot that I didn’t like my drink and took another sip and my face skewed into the ugliest formation possible just as the woman in the blue dress turned around.  Then my drink slipped out of my hand and shattered on the floor. 

The whole reason I even met Eric was standing just as gorgeous as ever less than 10 meters away from me.  I quickly turned around to face the bar hoping that Kayla hadn’t seen me or recognized me.  It just wasn’t my day, as quickly as I had turned she had just as quickly made her way to the bar next to me. 

“Candy, is that you?”

Her voice was just as lyrical as I remembered.  Why couldn’t she sound like a frog and lost her teeth and begun a reverse Benjamin Button and gotten really old fast? I asked myself.  I couldn’t bring myself to talk to her I was just so full of emotions and I really didn’t want to bawl my eyes out in a public place.

“You look great Candy.”

I tried to act like nothing was wrong but the stares of Eseta, Pena and Leti made me even more uncomfortable.  But Kayla just kept going as if she didn’t notice my reaction. 

“I know that what I did was unforgivable and I know that it hurt you a lot.  I’m sorry.  I don’t want to make excuses but I was young and I was scared; scared that you didn’t like me, scared that my family wouldn’t approve, scared of what the other kids would say if they found out.  I was a scared and immature girl and I know that doesn’t change the fact that I hurt you but I want you to know that I have thought about you every day since and I am so ashamed of my behavior.” 

Tears began to fall down Kayla’s cheeks and it felt good to see her cry.  Almost as if each tear she shed was me getting revenge for the pain that I had felt.  It is kind of true that time heals all wounds, because it wasn’t until she had reminded me of the ordeal I faced at her hands that all the aguish came back to me, but it lasted for only a short while.  Because I had forgiven her and moved on and seeing her cry no longer brought me joy but sorrow, sorrow for her and knowing that she has had to hold on to this for so long.  I turned around and hugged Kayla and wiped away her tears.

“Thank you for that Kayla.  I have forgiven you and wish only the best for you.”  I kissed her on the forehead grabbed my cousins and we danced.  As we danced I remembered the good times Kayla and I shared and the love that I felt for my family and I was happy again.

Kayla had come out to her parents in her last year of high school. She had had the courage to be the person who made her happy even if it meant that her parents disowned her and she brought shame to her family.  Kayla told of how once she came out she lost the people she thought were her closest friends.  Kayla introduced me to her partner Eve and was so excited that they were expecting their first child together.  As I rubbed Eve’s pregnant belly I could see that my cousins were a little angry at me as they wanted to find themselves a nice palagi but when choosing the club I didn’t realize it was a gay one.  As much as I wanted to stay and talk with Kayla I knew that Pena and Leti would not be able to handle the attention of the males so I said good bye and exchanged email addresses and left.

My cousins didn’t find a palagi on our trip to Australia, but I found myself.

“My name is Candice Palemia, but people call me Candy.  I am a beautiful young woman, stronger than I think I am, and loved by those who matter.”