Poe Manu was restless. Some days, she loved her home in the Matahina Islands. She loved the clean, sparkling sands of the beaches. She loved the clear blue waves that lapped the shores, and the coconut trees that waved like fingers in the warm breeze. Who wouldn’t love to live in such a place? It was paradise.
Except…for the lack of tourists. Poe was a performer. She could dance like a bird seeking his mate. She could twist and contort her body in ways that made a crowd ooh and ahh. She was handy with a fiery baton and could juggle just about anything. Princess Poe, they called her. Poe the Perfect. Poe Possible.
But Poe was bored. Sure, she happy to spend her days at the island carnival, doing tricks to please the same crowd again and again. And when business was slow, she taught dance classes from her home studio. But she longed for something greater. How she wanted to perform for a great audience of people from outside the islands – people who had never watched and would be open-mouthed in amazement when they saw her perform. But even more than that, Poe longed for a companion.
“Please send me a friend, Ta’aroa,” she prayed time after time, hoping that the creator god would hear her.
It was not easy, being a carnie. Everyone always expected you to put on a show. Make us laugh, Poe. Entertain us. But at the end of the day, when the costumes were put away in the closet, and the makeup was washed away, she was just Poe. Plain Poe, who came home to an empty house and had no one to talk to about her day.
One night, while practicing her dangerous new act on a deserted beach, Poe saw something so strange, that she nearly dropped one of her flaming torches. Out in the sea, she saw what at first appeared to be a large fish splashing about in the waves. But in the silvery glint of moonlight, she could swear that she saw the pale body of a man. Someone out for a night swim, she thought, starting to turn away. But then the man dove into the water, and something – no, it was not possible, but she was sure that she glimpsed a fish-like tail follow him beneath the surface.
A fish-man? A trick of the moonlight? A sign that she had been staring too long at spinning flames? Or maybe, just maybe, it was a sort of sign from Ta’aroa. Her prayer had been heard.
The very next day, she began to notice the man lurking around the carnival. He wore ragged clothes and heavy, blond braids, and wandered around the carnival grounds with a lost, hungry expression, like a stray dog. Poe’s heart twisted when she saw him. Who was that man? Did he have a home? Food to eat? Someone to talk to at the end of the day? Was he lonely, just like her?
One day, she decided to approach him as he slept on a hard wooden bench. “Would you like some lunch?” she asked gently, afraid of offending him. He accepted with eagerness, wolfing down the greasy, sugary carnival foods she brought him each day.
“If you like,” she told him, “you can come and see my show. No charge.” And so, he did. And some days, they hung out together afterward. Not Poe the Perfect and a fan, but like two friends, chatting and laughing together. His name was Ahio. He had lost his family in a terrible accident (though he would not give details), and now he lived on the beach. Poe couldn’t stand it anymore. He needed a place to live just as much as she needed a friend.
“Please come and stay with me,” she offered. “At least until you get your life on track.”
He hesitated. “Well I have…some health issues.”
Poe shrugged. “I don’t mind. Please, my home is your home.”
A few days later, her new friend moved in. And life soon became anything but boring.