As the months sped by, Ahio worked feverishly to make up for the loss of Poe’s income. He performed countless magic shows and accepted every drumming gig he could find. It was not easy, especially as he had to divide his time between life on land and life in the sea. But he had no choice. Pregnant acrobats could not earn money.
At last, the big day arrived. Ahio rushed Poe to the hospital, where, after hours of tears and screaming and several medical complications, Poe gave birth to a healthy baby boy, whom they named Tane.
In an instant, Ahio’s life had changed again. But this change was different. It was as though before, his life had been a film set on fast-forward, a dizzying whirl of people and colors that never stopped moving. But when he took Tane into his arms for the first time and looked down into his tiny red face, the world slowed almost to a stop. Suddenly, the only thing that existed, the only thing that mattered was that tiny, squalling infant. His son.
Poe, however, did not take to her new role in the same way. When the baby cried, she ignored him, or shot an exasperated look in Ahio’s direction until he dropped what he was doing and took care of Tane’s needs. She refused to have anything to do with changing diapers. “The odor upsets my stomach,” she complained. And instead of spending her time playing or cuddling with the baby, she darted off to the carnival, eager to get back to work.
Ahio was perplexed. He did not mind caring for Tane. But he had not expected to take on most of the child-rearing duties, and in truth, knew very little about babies. Maybe he was a little old-fashioned, but he’d always thought that Poe would do most of the motherly, nurturing stuff. But Poe, as he soon learned, did not really care about their son. Poe only cared about Poe.
“One of the carnies I work with has accepted a huge job with a traveling circus in Australia,” Poe told him one day, her eyes bright with excitement. “And get this – he’s invited me to come with him! Isn’t that the greatest news?”
Ahio frowned. “You mean – you’re leaving the islands?” “What about…what about your job here?” He couldn’t bring himself to ask about Tane. Was she planning to take Tane to Australia? If Ahio didn’t join them, then he would never get to see his son again!
Poe let out a puff of air. “Doing acrobats for the same old crowd, year after year? No thanks. This circus job is an amazing opportunity.”
For a moment, Poe said nothing. Then, without meeting his eyes, she said, “Well, this job isn’t exactly compatible with having a kid, you know? Maybe he can come to visit me when he’s older.”
“You mean, you’re just ditching him?” Ahio was horrified. “You’re going to take off and pretend like Tane doesn’t even exist?” How could she?
Poe shrugged. “He’ll have you. He’ll be fine.”
Anger surged through Ahio like a wave. “God, Poe. I never realized you were so selfish!”
“For what?” Poe snapped. “For not wanting to raise a kid? For wanting to have a real life, doing something I’m passionate about?” She spat out a string of foul words. They continued to argue back and forth, but nothing Ahio could say would change Poe’s mind. And that very evening, she packed up her belongings and left Ahio behind to raise Tane on his own.