The taxi drove through the town of Avarua; nothing seemed to have changed. The sea was on the right and rows of houses on the left. The town looked almost the same as Eddy had left in 2009.
The name of the island was Rarotonga; one of the larger islands in The Cooks Islands. The other large island was Aitutaki.
Eddy watched as the endless sea seemed to whiz pass by. This was one island nation where people drove on the left side of the road unlike Canada where he had lived for the last eleven years. It took him some time to get used to driving on the other side of the road when he first arrived there.
A scooter overtook their taxi and the driver cursed. For an island nation with only thirty-seven kilometres of road in total, each house had minimum two cars and two scooters. Rarotonga recorded the highest accident rates among island nations and people sustained the most injuries on weekends – no thanks to pub crawling. Drinking was a pass time at island nations, thus the high accident rates.
They were driving by Edgewater Resort and the driver commented that the tourist season was around the corner and the island would be filled with people. Eddy knew that, too.
It was during one such season that he left the island abruptly. All that happened at Edgewater Resort was still fresh in his mind. He was not known as Eddy, then. His name was Adi. Adi Narayanan. He was born and brought up in Fiji but at the age of 30 he moved to the Cooks when he was offered the job of his dreams.
The driver asked him where he wanted to be dropped. Eddy gave him the address. It was the house where he had lived before.
The driver pulled up outside a double story wooden house, empty. There was no sign of anyone. Eddy alighted and searched for his keys while the drive placed his bags on the ground. He bade Eddy goodbye, reversed and drove away.
Eddy found the keys for the house but he stood there for a moment admiring the house he had built. Though in wood, the house looked majestic, two- storey structure with a nice verandah on the first floor.
There was a huge lawn in front of the house, with overgrown grass; many coconut trees on the side. Nothing had changed. The adjacent land was still vacant. The sea was still there. His house faced the sea in the front.
Eddy sighed and picked up his bags as he walked towards the door. `Kia orana,’ he heard a voice call out to him. He turned, someone from the house on the right greeted him. Eddy nodded and opened the door. The smell of the house reminded him of the years that he had left it unattended.
The air was musty, there were cobwebs everywhere. Some hit his face. He brushed aside the cobwebs and walked into the spacious living area. His furniture remained covered in what was once a white fabric. Dust had settled and the fabric had turned brown. Not wanting to make dust fly around, Eddy tiptoed towards the kitchen. It was of open concept where the living area flowed into the kitchen and the dining area was next to it. There was a beam between the living and dining areas – it had signs of termite. Eddy made a mental note to have his entire house checked by the pest control folks the next day.
His pots and pans were as he had left them, but with dust. Even his fridge was still there. Didn’t she take anything with her, he wondered as he walked towards the master bedroom.
All the furniture in the master bedroom were covered in cloth. The walk-in wardrobe was dark, musty and there were signs of termite on the wood. Eddy opened the window that faced the sea. Fresh breeze entered and brushed his face. He felt at home. He felt as if his long journey had brought him home. Sudden tiredness overtook him. He sat down hard on the bed. Dust flew up. Eddy coughed as he looked out of the window towards the sea.
All that had happened in 2009 remain fresh in his mind. Renuka, his wife had found out about Natalie. Natalie Matamaru was an islander whom he had fell in love head over heels with. She used to visit his gym at Arutanga. Eddy was the boxing coach for the Cooks. He was born in Fiji, grew up living, eating and sleeping boxing every day. His dad was one of the longest reigning boxing champions in Fiji, so it was no surprise when Eddy took up boxing as well.
He rose from champion to coach over few years and then married his childhood sweetheart, Renuka. Life was a bliss, they were blessed with three girls and Eddy was offered a job in the Cooks as their boxing coach, at that very young age. He had always wanted to leave Fiji and join the larger circuits. So, the job at the Cook Islands was a dream come true. It didn’t bring him to the circuit he wanted to be part of but it gave him international exposure.
They settled well in Rarotonga (also known as `Raro’), Renuka was stay at home mum, the girls attended kindergarten and school. The second year they were there, Renuka became pregnant again. Secretly, Eddy hoped for a boy. They were expecting their fourth child when he met Natalie.
Natalie frequented another gym in Areora, but eventually she moved to Eddy’s gym at Arutanga. She told him that she had wanted to avoid her soon to be ex-husband who trained at the gym in Areora.
Natalie was unlike other women in Raro. She took great care of her physique. Most islanders, especially women, liked to have some extra fat on the tummy as that was considered beauty. Natalie was different, she had a body builder’s body, with well-toned muscles. But that did not extend to her confidence. She was falling apart when he met her. The divorce had taken a toll on her emotions.
Eddy rose to check the other room downstairs and the rooms on level one. The house needed lots of love. Changing into his shorts and a t shirt, he started cleaning from the first floor. He had designed the first floor to be like an apartment. It had two rooms, one bathroom and a kitchen. The key point was the huge verandah facing the sea. The sea breeze was awesome!
It was way past midnight by the time Eddy stopped cleaning. There were still rooms to be cleaned. He had stopped to eat something and sleep. The next day, he had a meeting with the Olympic Council President. Eddy was offered a job again to coach the boxing team of the Cooks. Since he left the island, the team went into shambles and lost almost every international meet.
His phone alarm went off at 7 a.m. Eddy woke up a little groggy. CISNOC office was at downtown Avarua. He had a meeting with Steve Graham, the President. There was a bus at 7.22 a.m. he caught that bus. It was filled with folks going to town to buy fresh supplies. There was only one bus company in Raro. The buses plied the island clock-wise and anti-clock wise, always on time, to the dot.
Eddy got off the bus at the town centre and walked to CISNOC office. It was housed in a wooden building. Almost all buildings in the Cook Islands were built of wood. The locals trusted wood more than cement and bricks. Sometime in 2013 a Chinese company had built a brick and cement building housing the island’s court. Two months after it was opened a huge part of the building collapsed middle of the night. Luckily, no fatalities.
Eddy opened the door and walked in. The receptionist seemed to wait for him. She rose from her chair and showed him into an adjacent room. `Please wait here,’ she said as she closed the door.
A few minutes later Steve Graham walked in. He hugged Eddy, islander style. The men had a lot to discuss. Their discussion went through lunch, which was served by the receptionist.
Steve told him about the issues plaguing the boxing team. Since 2009, they have had many coaches, both local and international, but nothing worked. In the last two years a young boxer seemed to rise above all odds and won a few local and international championships. Steve had faith that with proper guidance the boy will make it to the Olympics and possibly win a medal. Thus, he hunted Eddy down and offered him the job.
Around 4 p.m. Eddy bade Steve goodbye and left for home. The bus dropped him in front of his house. Eddy cleaned up a little more and decided to cook dinner. He had not got his TV connection fixed yet. Only his mobile was functioning. Anyway, he did not have anyone to call. His best friend in Canada, who helped him build his life there in 2009 had died a few months back and the job offer from the Cooks reached Eddy at the right time.
Eddy took a can of beer from the fridge and went up to the verandah to sit and watch the ocean. Ocean, where Natalie and he became lovers.
Renuka’s pregnancy was very difficult. She was moody all the time and managing three girls at the same time took a toll on her psychologically. Eddy and Renuka fought almost daily while Natalie and he grew closer. After gym they would go pub crawling and many a night Eddy had arrived home barely sober.
After a few months, Eddy and Natalie had started frequenting the Edgewater Resort. Natalie loved the ocean; Eddy swam with her to keep her company. It was during one of the swimming meets they ended up in one of the rooms – both realising how much they had missed physical closeness in life. A few days a week were spent at the resort. Soon, people started talking, but Eddy played innocent when Renuka questioned him. He told her that he was Natalie’s coach and that they had to spend considerable time together to prepare her for her championship in women body building.
Renuka was growing bigger. Some suspected she was carrying twins. But the doctor at the Raro General Hospital told Eddy that the baby was huge because Renuka had developed diabetes, caused by her pregnancy and that caused the baby to grow big. Eddy was worried and he sought solace in Natalie’s arms.
He still remembered the look on Renuka’s face when he opened the door at the room that he had rented at Edgewater Resort. Natalie was behind him in the flimsiest lingerie. Behind Renuka was Samuel, Natalie’s soon to be ex, with a sickle in his hand. Eddy knew what that meant. His reflex was so fast that he jumped out of the patio in the room and ran as fast as he could to Titus’ house. Titus was his friend who owned a boating business on the island. The events that followed were like a blur movie. Eddy told Titus what had happened. In the culture of the islanders, if a woman is caught with another man by her husband, he has all the right to kill that man. Such was the law. Eddy knew his life was ruined for good. He vaguely remembered the tourist-filled boat ride to Aitutaki, then a flight to Auckland, followed by another flight to Toronto, where he spent eleven years till fate brought him back to the Cooks. In the eleven years he had only heard twice about his family – Renuka died during childbirth and his three girls were sent to his dad’s place in Fiji. Many a times he had regretted leaving the island like that but it was all too late.
Sighing, he rose and walked downstairs to call it a day. He had to be at the CISNOC gym to meet the island’s boxers the next day at 8 a.m.
Eddy arrived at the CISNOC gym fifteen minutes earlier. He saw Steve talking to a group of young boys. Eddy walked to the group. Steve stood up and started introducing Eddy to the team and then…the young face caught Eddy’s eyes. It was as if Eddy was staring at himself! The same face cut, same eyes and same skin tone. `Let me introduce both of you,’ said Steve.
This is Adi Narayan, our most promising boxer, the one I talked to you about, Eddy, Steve said. He is 19 years old and has won a few international championships. That, too, without a regular coach. Eddy didn’t quite hear Steve. His mind was racing.
They told him Renuka died at childbirth but didn’t tell him his son survived. It was a boy as he had hoped for! He was staring at his own son. `Who are your parents, boy?’ Eddy asked.
`Samuel and Natalie Matamaru.’
Eddy froze. At that moment he realised why the tide brought him back to Raro. Renuka died after handing his son over to the woman he had fallen in love with, who named his son after him. Fate had brought him back to coach his own son! The one chance to correct what he did wrong eleven years ago. It was indeed the second tide.