the Neighbours

          ‘Go over and see if there’s anything we can do,’ she said.

Pete hesitated. He was still deep in shock from the news and couldn’t for the moment think how he could help.

          His wife seemed to understand his dilemma. ‘The offer will be enough – to show support.’

He remembered the day they had moved in. The little girl was only a baby, the same age as their daughter. He’d said his name was Mohammed.

          ‘We’ll call you Mo; we shorten everything here. I’m Pete – no one calls me Peter and the wife is Sue.

          Mo was an engineer, he came to help re-build the city after the second earthquake. They’d got on well, after a couple of cultural gaffs. Pete quickly found out that a beer with Mo was out of the question and they wouldn’t be eating Sue’s famous egg and bacon pie – a national dish.  Luckily, she was ace at roast lamb and the other national dish, Pavlova was much appreciated. The gesture was returned with a middle eastern version and recipes swapped.  

          As Pete knocked on the back door, he couldn’t quite believe that his friend Mo wouldn’t be answering. It opened a few centimetres and he could see Jamal’s tear-stained face suddenly full of fear. In that moment, Pete understood that he was a pakeha, a white male, like the arsehole who’d shot his mate Mo and all the others. He’d grown up here around guys like that and mostly gave them a wide berth. He once defended his friend Hemi at primary school from one such bully making anti Maori comments in the playground – the only time he’d ever hit anyone.          

‘It’s only me … Pete … can we do anything?’

Jamal relaxed and shook her head.

          Pete felt tears welling. He didn’t recall having done this as an adult. He must have cried as a baby but grown men don’t cry. ‘This isn’t supposed to happen in New Zealand,’ he said.

          ‘We came here because it was safe. Where can we go now?’ she said.

          ‘It is … it was …’ Tears were streaming down his face. ‘This is not who we are.’ He was shaking with grief and anger. ‘We’ve lost so much today.’

3 thoughts on “the Neighbours”

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