Puaura Timoci loved the sea, and the sea loved her. From the moment the morning rays of sunlight kissed her eyelids open to the moment when the pale light of the moon gently pressed them shut again, Puaura’s life was all blue waves and blue skies that stretched and stretched to the ends of the world.
She lived with her mama and papa, who loved the sea, too. The three of them lived on a large houseboat, which moved and rocked to the gentle sway of the ocean. Puaura’s papa was a diver and a fisherman, and often took her with him on his sailboat. Then he would cast his line while Puaura paddled around in the water, searching for seahorses and colorful fish, which tickled her feet as they swam by.
When her mother returned from her work as a housekeeper, Puaura would happily fill her in on her sea excursions with papa. “I think I saw Pahuanui today!” she would cry out in excitement, then spend the next ten minutes or so describing the fantastic creature she was sure she had seen. Her mother’s dark eyes were tired, but she always smiled and listened to Puaura’s stories.
It was perfect in those days. At least, that was how Puaura remembered it. Those were the before days. The days when Papa used to go diving in the depths of the sea, hoping to find the great treasure of Rongo. “My mamau used to say that the treasure of Rongo is the key to easing Tangaroa’s anger,” said papa.
“But how will you know what Rongo’s treasure looks like?” asked Puaura, her eyes round with wonder.
Papa’s grinned. He pulled Puaura into his strong arms, and she inhaled his scent of salty air and the coconut oil he rubbed into his hair to make it shine. “Mamau said that when you find the treasure, you will know. You will feel it deep inside you, like a heartbeat.”
That was before. And then one day, thick, dark clouds blocked out the sky and turned the ocean choppy and gray. The palm trees lining the beach bowed toward the ground under the weight of heavy rains and wind.
Before her mother could stop her, Puaura ran outside into the storm. She stood on the shore, facing the dark waters, which churned and frothed like the jaws of a wild beast. “Papa!” she cried into the wind, the rain drenching her cheeks like tears. “Papa-aaa!”
But Papa never returned. And for Puaura, the rest of her life was the after days.