Samoan author

A New TELESA Novel.

“You know this isn’t healthy right?” Jake asked the question without recrimination. Simply stating an indisputable fact. “The anonymous financial support of her education, the long-distance stalking of her career – these are not signs of a balanced individual, a man who’s made incredible progress in therapy. You’ve come so far. But this? Is the last chain holding you back.”

” She’s not the only one that my Fire Foundation supports. So what, it’s a crime now to do charity work?” argued Keahi.

“It is when it’s accompanied by 24 hour surveillance. When are you going to let her go? What are you afraid of?”

Keahi’s only response to that was to start attacking the kick bag. Jake raised his voice over the jarring sound of blows.

“How do you feel when you think about letting her go? Stopping all the security?”

Keahi halted his assault, battling for control of his raging emotions as Jake’s question got him thinking – against his will – of letting her go.

No more cameras. No more bodyguards. No more weekly reports. No more knowing where she was, what she was doing, if she were alright…

He swore. Loudly. Turned and kicked a chair, sent it hurtling across the room. Jake sipped at his green tea and adjusted his glasses. And waited. He was used to this.

“You didnt see the footage,” Keahi argued. “If my guy hadn’t been there she would have been mugged that first year of art school. And then that apartment she was in? A pit. A health hazard. The landlord was in violation of twelve different building codes. She couldnt stay there in those conditions. All the stuff I do?  Im just looking out for an old friend.”

Jake raised a questioning eyebrow. “Is that what you call it? Buying the whole building so you could get her apartment renovated? Oh, and installing a gym and planting a martial arts instructor in the apartment block in the hopes she would take up classes? All that comes under ‘looking out for an old friend’?!

“You make it sound like I’m a psycho.” Keahi’s shoulders slumped. “I’m not hurting her. I would never hurt her.”

“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” replied Jake. “This obsession hurts you. Your fixation prevents you from moving forward. She’s not your sister. Nothing you do can bring Mailani back or make up for what happened twenty years ago. You need to let go of the guilt or you’ll never find peace.”

“Peace is overrated,” snapped Keahi. He resumed his attack on the bag.

Sometimes Jake – with all his degrees and experience – could get it wrong. Because Keahi knew without a shadow of a doubt that Teuila was not Mailani. And nothing about her made him think of a sister.

“She’s not a chain holding me back Jake,” he said quietly. “She’s the reason I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere. Or still picking fights in seedy clubs.” He motioned with outspread arms to the opulence around them, the stunning penthouse view of the cityscape. “She’s the reason I sorted myself out and  fought for all this.” A sly grin. “She’s why I got a therapist in the first place. You owe her your exorbitant fee.”

“Touche,” laughed Jake.


Keahi thought about that last session with Jake as he wandered through Teuila’s latest exhibition, coming to a halt in front of a piece fashioned of black river rock – a woman with her arms crossed around her legs, drawing them up close to her torso. Her face looked up to the heavens in supplication. Reverence. Flowing curves and contours, supple and liquid like midnight water. It was entitled;

For thou art fearfully and wonderfully made.

Critics the world over were alternately baffled and awed by Teuila’s style. She delighted in taking the toughest, most immovable of materials and fashioning sculptural and design pieces that spoke of fragility and lightness. Many had an ethereal quality about them but one that rested firmly on a foundation of strength and endurance.

One reviewer wrote: ‘In her hands, rock becomes silk, poumuli wood is butter and ore is water. One cannot detect even the hint of a chisel or the cut of a blade in them. The strength required to hew such materials, particularly in the mammoth-sized works, boggles the mind. How does she do it?

Because he had experienced Teuila’s unique gift for himself – with electrifying results – Keahi knew the answer to that question.

Teuila came up beside him and he turned to her with a cautious smile.

“What do you think?” she asked.

“Psalms 139, verse 14.”

Her face lit up. “You know it! That’s my favorite scripture and the inspiration for my key piece…”

Keahi interrupted, “In your Ragged Soul exhibition at the end of your final year at the Academy. I know.”

Confusion. “But how?”

“I went to see it on one of my trips to New York.” He shrugged at her look of incredulity. “I was there doing media stuff and I stopped by.” He could see she still didnt believe him. “Fine. I have a friend who’s an art freak, goes to all the latest shows. He knew about my connection to Samoa so he told me about this brilliant new artist from a tiny island in the South Pacific that everybody was raving about.”

It was the truth, just not the whole truth. He left out the part about Jake recognizing Teuila’s name because he’d already heard about her in his sessions with Keahi.

“You didnt want to say hi?” asked Teuila.

“I didnt want to get in the way. You had all that press around you and a bunch of stuck-up art crowd, so no, I just hung back and watched you do your thing.” A grin. “You handled that asshole critic really well, the one who was talking smack about your work while trying to look down your dress at the same time. Pretentious prick.”

She gaped. “You were there that day?!”

“Yeah. I looked at all your pieces and gotta admit I didnt understand it all.” A sheepish laugh. “But the bits I did get? Blew me away.”

She was suddenly shy. “Really?”

“Some of it scares me.”


“It’s so honest. That takes courage I dont have.” He wanted to tell her that he’d bought ten of her pieces. They were everywhere in his office and in his house. He wanted to say that he’d read every critic’s review of her work, every write-up about her in every magazine. He’d watched every interview she’d given over the last two years and even taken an online Art Appreciation class because he wanted to understand her work that continued to intrigue and challenge people everywhere.

But he didnt. He couldnt.

Because how could he explain the power she had over him – when he couldnt explain it to himself?


Its been ten years since the concluding events of The Bone Bearer. New paths have been forged, gifts unleashed in unexpected ways, everyone has made new lives for themselves. But some things are stronger than time and distance.  Keahi’s tie to Teuila is one forged by shared childhood pain but is it an addiction that can be transformed into an enduring love? Or will it destroy them both? Especially when an ancient force is awakened- the Heart of Vaea – and they must subdue it before it consumes them all.

The next book in the TELESA Series is a stand-alone contemporary novel written for a mature audience. Coming July 2014.



A Telesa Movie

The number one question I get asked by anybody who’s read my books (and by people who haven’t read them and have no plans to anyway because they hate romance novels with too many rippling muscles in them but they’ve heard rumors), is:

Are you making a TELESA movie?! *excited voice and hopeful facial expression*

My answer is always – No. I write books, I don’t make movies. And I’ve got no money, no rich financier or amazing producer contacts, so how in heck am I supposed to make a movie anyway?

And the person looks disappointed. Maybe even a little disgruntled. Sometimes because they reeeeaaallly love Daniel Tahi and want to see his abs on the big screen. Sometimes because they reeeeeeally love the kicka** Covenant Sisterhood and want to audition for a role. But most times, it’s because they reeeeealllllly love the Samoa that stars in the books and they’ve fallen in the love with the story and think it would make a great movie.  (Of course I agree with them on all counts.)

So this update is for those who ask me about a Telesa movie.

Last weekend, I went to New Zealand and it was fabulous because I got to attend my niece’s exquisite wedding, spend time with Big Son, eat too much ( so what else is new), AND I met with a producer who wants to option the book for a movie. She read the series at Christmas-time and thinks they would make great viewing. It was a thrill to meet with her and hear her ideas for the books and to see how much she loves them. Three years ago right about now, I was getting rejection letters every other day for this book, so I’m just so grateful that my novel is even being considered for big-picture-things.

Does an option mean there will be a TELESA movie?

No. An option is a contractual agreement between an author and a film producer/company, giving that producer the right to TRY and put together a film package (a script, team of directors, potential cast etc and most importantly, the finance to make the movie). The producer and the author agree on a set time frame for that all to happen., say…six months to a year. If by that time, the producer hasn’t been able to make it happen, then all bets are off and the author is free to grant option rights to some other production company.

This explains why I have not blasted Eminem and danced a celebratory dance on my rooftop. I have author friends who got their books optioned several times over and nothing ever happened. And I have a couple of author friends who’s books have been made into movies. An option is just that. A possibility…at war with impossibility.

But this whole journey has been just that for me. Holding on to childhood dreams of writing a book people from all over the world would read. Then allowing those dreams to carry me through the book rejections so that I could self-publish. The spark of possibilities burning brighter with every book launch and book signing I do, with every new reader who writes to tell me how much they enjoyed the books, every classroom that adds Telesa to their curriculum and every new library that puts this Samoan novel on their shelf.

And now here we are.

To all those who ask if there’s going to be a TELESA movie. The answer isn’t no anymore.

It’s maybe.

Righteous Rape

The Samoa Observer interviewed the Chairman of the National Council of Churches and asked for his thoughts on the ‘epidemic of rape and sexual abuse’ in Samoa. His response was printed in the Sunday newspaper and can be read here:

While I think there was truth and helpful insight in some of his remarks, any ‘good’ to be found was overwhelmingly ruined by his counsel for women in abusive situations. I am appalled and saddened that a leader in a position of great influence has chosen to express views which are at best, ignorant and derogatory, and at worst – dangerous for women and children in our country.

An Open Letter to the Chairman of the National Council of Churches.

Dear Chairman,

You are absolutely right. As a Samoan woman – a daughter, a mother, and a teacher – I want to thank you for your wise reflections on the epidemic of rape and sexual abuse crimes in our country. It is inspired leadership like yours which stands as a beacon of light for the men (and women) of your nationwide flock. We must all give thanks, for it is counsel like yours, which guides us in our decision-making when it comes to raping and sexual abusing others. I certainly hope the journalist who interviewed you, did not misquote you, because there’s so many treasured nuggets of wisdom in your interview, things  which I only wish I’d known at various key moments in my life.

Like this one! “The reason why the law is broken so often in Samoa, is because for some, enjoyment was found and the girls have consented for this to happen, then they go and say they were raped.” Oh so true. When I was a high school English teacher, and a fourteen year old student came to me crying because her brother-in-law had raped her, again. And she had told her mother and her mother had slapped her face and told her off for wanting it and causing trouble for her older sister’s marriage.  And this student begged me not to tell anyone, or report it to the police or discuss it with her parents because “my family will beat me and I will have nowhere to go.” At the time, I was sad for her and didn’t know what to say or do to help this young girl. How misguided I was. She was obviously trying to destroy her family. I too, should have slapped her face for wanting to be raped. And perhaps suggested to her parents that they needed to have more family prayers. “Instead of family prayers, the young are out attending basketball and soccer games. This is why such crimes are increasing because parents are not taking the time to nurture their children well.”  Or told her family they needed to focus less on “education, sports and human rights…” because those things were leading them away from the light. Oh, and mobile phones and internet access were also playing a part – encouraging this girl to want sex with her brother-in-law. I’m glad you have identified the cause of the sexual abuse epidemic because you’re so right – if more women were just honest about how much they enjoyed sex with their fathers/brothers/uncles/cousins/abusive-partners and how much they LOVED being forced to have it – then the horrifying rape statistics would virtually, magically disappear.

Or this gem from you is a personal favorite of mine! Women need to fight back …bite them hard; leave a mark…failure to do so could be interpreted as the girl not really resisting and agreeing to sex.” .”  How I wish I’d had enlightened counsel like yours when I was a child. I was seven years old when I was sexually violated by a man much older and much bigger than me. I didn’t fight. Bite. Or scratch. Scream. Or leave any marks. No, I was just frozen. Silly little me! I was foolish enough to believe him when he said that he would kill me if I struggled. Or if I ever told anyone.  I did as I was told and so of course, I misled that man into thinking I was in delightful agreement with his wishes. Don’t worry, I’ve learned an important lesson
from that experience. I have three daughters and when they were only two years old, I made sure they were each trained by ninja assassins so they had black belts in karate and then also carried a ten inch blade and a machine gun at all times. At home, to preschool and to church. You know, so they could fight back and leave a mark in case they were ever attacked. So there would never be any
doubt that their little two year old selves WEREN’T really resisting.

There’s so much informed insight contained in your message, that I encourage everyone, everywhere to read it. Several times over. Read it to your sons so they will have a litany of reasons why it’s okay to rape women. Read it to your daughters so they will understand all the reasons why they will probably be raped one day – and if so, why it will be  their fault.

In conclusion, thank you Chairman for telling us that “I’m not making excuses for men – no man has the right to touch a woman physically, no matter what his reasons are.”

(Even if that reason has been sanctified and justified by the Chairman of the National Council of Churches.)

Sincerely and bitingly yours,

Lani Wendt Young

Do Men Control the Malu?


Model – Stacie Ah Chong-Levi.
Photographer – Penina Momoisea

Receiving a malu can be a deeply personal and empowering thing and I have great admiration for all those women who have undergone this ritual ceremony and bear their malu with pride. I don’t have a malu. I am not an expert in Samoan cultural practises or the historical background of them – so this blog speaks from the position of an (ignorant) outsider observer.

In our Samoan culture,  the art of traditional tattooing is a male domain with no female ‘tufuga’ /tattooists.  When a woman gets a malu, she literally subjects herself – her will, her body – to a team of men who are the supposed ‘experts’ and chosen ones who carry the lineage and knowledge – and they hold her still and write on her body. The tattooist is assisted by at least two men who spread the skin, holding it taut for the detailing work to be done. Detailing which runs from the thighs to the knees, so that you the woman, must agree to have a trio of males (usually strangers to you) placing their hands all over your legs and thighs. You cannot tell the tufuga (tattooist) what symbols to use, you don’t even know what he’s going to tattoo you with until he’s done. You can of course discuss it with him, and there are basic designs that make up the malu which he will use – but the final decision is left to him for how your malu is executed.

Why is it that a ritual/ceremony/process that for many is essentially linked to “being a tamaitai Samoa” – is entirely controlled, mastered and carried out by men? The symbolism in the process disturbs me and is a key reason why I have not yet gotten a malu.  Is it a feminist issue with me that I don’t like how its men who have the knowledge and authority over this intrinsically female part of our measina? Or is it a body control, personal space issue with me that I don’t want men who I don’t know or personally trust, touching my body in such intimate ways over a protracted and painful period of time?  I’m not the only one who finds the process problematic. One woman I know, even made the somewhat extreme comment, that observing a malu being done should come with a rape-trigger warning – because for her, even though a woman wanted that tattoo, there were too many connotations about having a young woman lying on the ground, in tears, gritting her teeth against the pain, while three or four men clustered around her administering the source of that pain.

Whatever the reasons may be for my unease, the fact is that I am uneasy.  No matter how professional, talented, skilled, friendly the tattooist may be, I would still prefer to have a female tufuga with an all-female team of assistants. Has it always been this way I wonder? Has there ever been a time in our long-ago history, where getting a malu was a woman-centered thing from its beginning to end?

Which is why I was excited to find out that there IS one female tattooist who has been trained by the legendary Suluape family and can tattoo the malu for women. Her name is Su’a Sulu’ape Angela and she has a tattoo company in San Diego, California. (So if you’ve ever thought about getting a malu but you too would prefer to have a woman do it – then check out Angela’s page on Facebook.)

My discomfort with the ‘traditionally applied’ malu is what inspired the malu scene in my Telesa Series. (This is why, it’s kinda cool to be a fiction writer…so one can re-mythologize the things about one’s cultural legacy that one does not particularly feel good about.)  In the first book TELESA, I reclaim the female tattoo malu as an empowering thing that is done by women and for women. Not only that, it’s done in sisterhood, as a way to strengthen ties between sisters, mothers and daughters and to deepen ones understanding and knowledge of her matrilineal heritage.

It’s complete fantasy – but it’s the way I wish the malu could be.

‘While the tattooist does her work, women sit there beside the recipient. They sing songs of her ancestors. They tell stories of the women who walked before her – the lives they led, the battle they fought, the children they bore, the men they loved. They trace her lineage back to Nafanua the war goddess. Back to Tangaloa-langi, goddess of the earth….they will her the strength to endure.

My mother was with me as my sisters held me down, pulled my skin taut and cut me. I heard her voice sing to me through a haze of endless pain. And tell me stories of ancient telesa. At night when the moon called to a silken sea, she helped carry me to the ocean so I could bathe the open wounds in salt water. And she cut fresh banana leaf fronds for me to lie on, their coolness soothing the cuts that burned with chilli pepper and lemon leaf. When the malu was complete, my mother fed me with vaisalo and succulent baked crab. Salty limu seaweed and raw fish in coconut cream. Slices of papaya soaked in lemon. Food for healing. Food for strengthening.

By day five, my malu was just a dull ache. And my sisters planned the celebratory feast for the displaying of my tattoo. My mother helped me dress. In a brief piece of unpatterned siapo cloth, soft and gentle against the healing skin. A shift that ended where the malu began, at the thigh, so as to better display its beauty. They rubbed my skin with mosooi coconut oil and put a red hibiscus in my hair. The celebration was outdoors. Feather-edged mats spread out underneath the trees, awaiting the first time I would expose my malu to the sun….the sun was a glorious blaze of gold and the gardenia was in full bloom. I sat there and looked at these women, my sisters – and my malu spoke to theirs, adding to the story of our ancestry.’

What are your thoughts on the malu and what’s required to get one? Anyone else out there wishing there were female tattooists trained in the traditional method for doing them?

The Next Book in the Telesa Series


I don’t know who this model is, but he was on Pinterest and he reminded me of Keahi….

I’m working on a new book in the Telesa Series – that picks up the story of Teuila, Keahi and a few of the other characters, about eight years after ‘The Bone Bearer’ story finishes. I don’t have a title yet and its very much a work in progress, but I’m excited about the new direction for some of my favourite characters and wanted to share an excerpt. Enjoy!

That’s when he sees her.  It’s her but it isn’t. He knew she wouldn’t be the kid he’d left behind, but he’s not prepared for this. For her. She’s listening to some man who’s standing way too close to her. She’s smiling up at him.  A surge of anger. Why is she smiling at him? Followed by confusion. Why does it matter? He downs the glass of tepid wine. Ugh. Wishes it was a bottle of Vailima beer instead. Studies her.

She’s cut her hair short so it barely skims her neck, so that the line of her back is clearly visible in that emerald green dress she’s wearing. A muttered curse under his breath. What kind of dress is that anyway?!  It clings to her body in fascinating ways, a body that has a ripeness to it that wasn’t there eight years ago. The man beside her leans forward to whisper something in her ear and she laughs.

A slice of fury cuts him deep.  This was a mistake. He shouldn’t have come. Should have just phoned in his auction bid from the hotel. Better yet, he should have stayed in Los Angeles and had his agent deal with it. He didn’t need to be here. He didn’t need to see her, talk to her. What did they have to say to each other after all? He grabs a bottle from a passing waiter and takes a gulp of the fiery liquid, savouring its bitterness. Eyes still locked on this girl – no, this woman – he has come so far to see.

A crowd buzzes around her, wanting to congratulate her. She greets them all with a quiet confidence and surety, thanking them, flushing lightly at their compliments. A warm heat builds in him then and not from the alcohol. He is proud of her. His gaze sweeps the room, lingering on the art pieces that bear her name on the placards. She’s done all this. She has worked hard, come so far. He’s kept track of her. The international art awards, the accolades for her solo shows in Sydney and New York – he has it all committed to memory. He remembers the darkness that used to live inside her,a darkness he understood all too well – and he is happy. No, he’s done the right thing coming here tonight. He’s going to celebrate her journey, toast her achievements, add his congratulations to the others. And then he’s going to turn around, walk right out of here and go straight to the airport where a private jet waits for him.

Well, that was the plan anyway…

Keahi had become a master of self-discipline. One doesn’t rise through the ranks of the UFC and the world of MMA cage fighting without discipline. He’d come here tonight with a plan and he was going to stick to it.

Until the man beside Teuila brought his hand up to lightly dance his fingers along the bare skin of her spine.  A confident caress of possession. Which immediately had her stiffening and shifting away. It was slight, but it was there. No-one else noticed it, only Keahi. But it was the look in her eyes which had him clenching his fists. The fear and panic that she tried to clamp down and replace with lightness. It was only a fleeting glimpse but it was enough to take him back to a long ago day when a sullen, fourteen year old girl had asked him if he could teach her how to fight back.

‘What do you want kid?’ His words were harsh but his tone wasn’t. Keahi had spent enough years as a beat up little kid to recognize another.

‘Can you teach me?’ The request took supreme effort. She didn’t like asking for anything, especially not from a boy.

He stopped his rhythmic blows to the workout bag. ‘Teach you what?’ He looked at her. Just a slight figure of a girl, wiry hair pulled back into a thick braid and dark eyes that hinted of hurt. He’d noticed her in his classes here at the Center. Always hovering on the edges of the lessons, pretending not to pay too much attention but every nerve attuned to his instructions, her eyes greedily memorizing his every strategic throw and twist. And now here she was. Still cautious. Still poised for flight at the first sign of threat.

He took his time unstrapping his gloves, not making any sudden movements. It came instinctively to him because he had lived a lifetime in her shoes after all. She waited till he was done. Until he had tossed the gloves lightly to the side and she had his complete attention.

‘Teach me how to kill someone.’

If she thought to shock him, she was disappointed. Keahi gave her a casual shrug. ‘Sure. Be here tomorrow afternoon. I’ll give you lessons three times a week.’

Then he got his bag and left. He didn’t see the way she looked at him, the almost-reverential awe. He never did. He wouldn’t have recognized it even if he had seen it. Keahi didn’t know what gratitude looked like. He was a stranger to hero worship. All he ever saw in Teuila was the fear that fought with the strength and the angry courage that had been beaten down far too many times.

Here now in this glittering, colourful night of celebration, Keahi didn’t like seeing that relic of the past in Teuila’s eyes. It had him gritting his teeth, jawline tensed taut and his gaze locked on the scene before him. Teuila sidled away from her male companion but he was oblivious to her discomfort because he only moved closer. He reached again for her, this time to take her hand in his, bring her fingers to his lips.

Keahi didn’t breathe. Just ground his frustrations into the bottle he was holding. The sound of glass shattering had the entire room catching their breath. Heads turned his way. Keahi swore – which only added to the spectacle.  A passing waiter leapt to assist him. ‘Sir, your hand. Let me clean that up for you.’

Keahi knelt beside the helpful attendant who was cleaning up the broken glass. “Sorry about the mess.”

The conversation in the room resumed and everyone turned back to their party chatter. Everyone that is, except Teuila. She looked and their eyes met, caught. A flash of recognition and all emotion drained from her face. “It is you,” she whispered. She was no longer listening to the crowd around her, her gaze was locked on the man across the room, on his knees amidst a scattering of glass. Keahi was caught. He couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe. For a moment he was lost and a rush of memories assailed him. Memories of a young girl who’s soul sang with butterflies and called to the living earth. A girl who stood with him on a scorched battle field and set him alight with her strange gifts. A girl scarred yet still defiant, a girl who didn’t exist anymore because there she stood now, a grown woman.

An achingly beautiful woman in an emerald green dress, staring at him with shocked recognition.

And then the moment was gone. The waiter handed Keahi a napkin for the blood on his hands. A petite woman in sky-high heels and a pink slip dress tugged at Teuila’s arm, demanding her attention.  Teuila turned away unwillingly.

‘Can’t put it off any longer. Here it goes…’ Keahi muttered under his breath. He rose to his feet and strode towards the center of the room. He was oblivious to the admiring glances from the women in the crowd and the murmur of questions. Samoa was a small place and strangers always stood out. Especially strangers who looked like Keahi.

He wasn’t overly tall but he moved with a compact power and strength that simmered of restrained fury. Tonight he wore dark slacks and a red patterned elei shirt. The jewelled tones emphasized his cinnamon  skin tone and close cropped dark hair. Eyes lingered on the muscled symmetry of his arms and neck covered in tattoo markings and if you studied him closer, you could see the faint scar tissue underneath. Even dressed in casual island elegance – no-one could mistake Keahi for anything but a man of wrath. One who had fought, bled and hurt others. He smiled as he came up to his target, but it was a smile that didn’t reach his eyes. It was a smile of calculating confidence as he made his way towards Teuila – and the man who had sparked fear in her eyes with his touch.

But before he could reach them, a woman exclaimed, “It’s him! I don’t believe it. It’s Keahi Meredith the actor.” An excited buzz as others joined in her admiring chatter. Keahi’s path was blocked now as a cluster of women surrounded him.

A woman in a ruffled purple sheathe grabbed at his arm with sweaty fingers. “I told my friend it was you but she didn’t believe me. What would he be doing here in Samoa, she said! But it’s you. I loooove your movies.”

The tight smile on Keahis face was automatic as he shifted into celebrity mode. It was second nature to him now. Ever since his success in the UFC had led to his first breakout role in a gritty prison drama, his acting career had been on hyper-drive. The past seven years had been an often bewildering journey which so far, spanned five movie roles and even netted one surprise awards nomination. Polite chatter and ready grins were what these women wanted. It’s what they always wanted. That and more. Sometimes he gave it to them. But not tonight. He answered questions, signed autographs and obligingly posed for photographs – when all the while his every nerve was poised on edge, aware of the woman across the room.