AN: SOooooooo, we're meeting the OC today. Her name is Naima - pronounced Nay-mah - and I hope you like her. If there are any words that aren't English I'll add them in the Endnotes. I've tried to use words that can be understood within the context. BTW it gets a little bit political in this chapter and the same rules apply. Feedback and constructive criticism are welcome. Flames and degradation are not.
TWOwas to run in the shadows,
She was cold, but the thought was at the back of her head. She'd had enough time to become used to that, especially now that it was like she was constantly cold. As if crossing the ocean had transposed a chill deep into her bones.
Naima could almost pinpoint the exact moment she'd started feeling cold; it was somewhere between the faded wooden sign that read 'Welcome to Forks' and the oddly shaped Oak tree a mile and a half down. She'd only noticed the tree because Eve had said it looked like something was growing out of it. Naima had agreed, but not for the first time had she wondered if trees felt pain.
But she bore the cold till it had become normal, and then she filed the thought away till it only popped up when she had nothing to do.
And there was almost always something to do.
Managing a house - making it a home - was hard work. They'd had a habit of moving; by the time Naima was 15, they'd moved a total of eight times. That was almost once every two years. She wondered how her mum had done it so often, and then the thoughts turned from fondness to sadness because her mother was no longer alive to ask. But there was too much to do to feel sad. So maybe it was better that she felt cold.
It didn't help that the house they'd rented was almost parallel to a large cliff, so the wind was constantly blowing towards them. The first time she saw it, Naima had been struck hard with an image of a rickety house standing over the sea with nothing but criss-crossing support beams from a film that had not ended well for the main characters.
But it wasn't on support beams. It was firmly on the ground. It was alright. And it wasn't like the house was on the cliff. Just parallel to it.
At least the salt air would be a nice change from the smog of London.
The house itself was old - rustic - but it had the feeling of a potential home. It was obviously well lived in and even though the landlords had assured them that there had been a deep clean, there was still a lingering smell of something sickly sweet and woodsy.
It was an odd mix of smells that Naima couldn't quite place her finger on. She stood there and tried hard to not smell it too deeply because the staleness of it was making her feel queasy. It wasn't until Eve said that it smelt a little bit like fruit tea that Naima understood.
It wasn't like fruit tea exactly. Herbal teas always smelt potent and inviting. But they hardly ever tasted like they smelt. Most of the time they were a watered-down version of the scent and that was what the lingering smell was like.
"It's tobacco," their dad said. There was a distasteful look on his face. "The owner must have smoked a lot for the smell to still be here."
"Or they didn't clean it properly," Eve said unhappily.
Naima didn't say anything; for all the hoops they'd had to go through to get the house they could have at least made sure it was clean. Instead, she took stock of the state of the rooms while she opened one of the windows. The salt sea washed away some of the staleness but left cold in its path.
The first thing would be to clean the carpets. Maybe even wash the walls. Then they would be able to move things around.
That was what happened in the first week and it seemed like the hardest part. Their dad had managed to find a job in a garage in Port Angeles so more often than not he would need to take the truck, but eventually he'd bought a second-hand car at a reasonable price from one of the kids on the Reservation so that Naima could move things and go to the shops easily.
She'd never thought they would be a household that had two cars but it was true what they said about America. And Forks' public transport system was nearly non-existent. Eve was lucky she could walk to school when she eventually started a few weeks later because she couldn't drive, and Naima wasn't going to drop her and pick her up every day. Eve wasn't 10.
Naima struggled through everything. It wasn't easy trying to manage everything without much help from her dad or Eve. And she didn't expect them to help either. It wasn't Eve's job. She had school to go to and her own life to try and figure out.
The school wasn't bad though - as far as Naima could tell. There weren't many to pick from other than the one in Forks and the one on the Reservation. Out of the two, Naima had a feeling Eve would be more comfortable at First Heritage and so she'd made a strong case for her sister.
It had taken a couple of months of her promising Eve wouldn't disrespect anyone, proving that she was a good student, making a case for the fact that she would be judged fairly harshly at the school in Forks for her Hijab - she had seen how white everyone was in Forks. It seemed like the epitome of a small town and small towns didn't mix well with visibly different people - and in the end gave a donation towards the Reservation Preservation fund.
The Quileute tribe held their culture closely, and Naima couldn't even blame them. She didn't know very much of their history other than the momentary comments she'd heard at school. But if what they had gone through was anything like the Aboriginals of Australia, or the Slave trading industry, then it was a well-founded concern.
So two and a half months in, Eve started the new year and a new term at First Heritage High and complained about having to wake up at six instead of eight. She moaned about the curriculum being either too simple or too complicated, and she almost drove her and her dad crazy over Calculus. "Why? Why would that ever be a subject?"
Naima didn't know. But she suggested Eve get a tutor, and then decided she'd find one for her sister anyway - even though she'd refused. Their dad went to work, came home, and didn't complain about anything. That worried Naima more. He would come home, listen to the two of them and then he would eat and head off to bed.
With everyone doing their own thing, Naima was left to deal with the house, otherwise, it would never get done.
So she pulled up the closest DIY store on her phone and tried - very badly - to drive to it. She wasn't sure how much she liked driving in America; it seemed a little more free-for-all than she was used to. And they drove on the wrong side of the road. But she managed to get to the store without any big issues (accidents), had parked up, and was in the store quickly.
It was a smooth enough process to get the ivory and beige paint in the large tubs - especially after she'd told the overly helpful attendant that she was all good - and was walking around collecting the paintbrushes, rollers and tape that would be necessary to do a decent job. A painter she was not, but Naima had painted a room enough times to know what a difference smooth edges made to the overall look. Besides, if she was the one dealing with all of the decorating, then she was going to decorate the way she wanted.
She was about to go to the till when, in the far corner of the paint section, she caught sight of a brilliant emerald colour. Naima moved closer towards the tin almost as if she were hypnotised. It was almost the exact colour of the leaves in spring back in London and instantly she wanted it.
The issue was, someone had just taken it.
The first time she saw him was less than stellar. It was the last tin of that amazing green, and the behemoth man had snatched it and walked to the till so quickly that she could only watch helplessly as he paid and left. Where was the justice in that?
Nervously, Naima walked to the till with the equipment and paint she had found. The assistant looked at her anxiously and she immediately felt bad for making the poor guy's job harder than it probably already was. She had worked her fair share of customer service jobs over the last couple of years.
Now it was awkward because she really could have been nicer. But she asked anyway. She wasn't going to leave and come back another day because she was feeling awkward and guilty.
"Hi, sorry. I was just wondering if there was any more of that green paint you just sold? That seemed to be the last one on the shelf."
The boy checked the old computer next to the till and then shook his head. "No Miss, we don't seem to have any more in stock right now."
"When will it be back in stock?"
"I think they actually discontinued that colour a while back, sorry," he said.
She tried not to let her face show just how disappointed she was, but it was hard; she'd never been very good at putting on a face. It was probably why she'd had her fair share of customer service jobs in the first place.
She didn't seem to be doing too well at hiding her disappointment because the assistant became overly helpful again, asking her if there was any other type of paint he could interest her in. He began listing off three or four names that she assumed were close to the green that she wanted.
It was equal parts impressive, overwhelming and worrying. Just how dull was his job that he'd memorised paint colours?
She was almost angry at the boy until she realised that it was fine. She could order that colour paint online. And if she did, it would probably be cheaper. She wasn't going to start with her room anyway. The front room was going to need to be worked on as quickly as possible.
And there would be a lot of work to do, starting with peeling the old wallpaper off and seeing what the state of the walls looked like. She prayed they were fine.
Naima wondered what their landlord would do if she had to get the walls re-plastered. They'd rented the house for the year which gave them some stability. It was also one of the stipulations for moving onto the Reservation.
She'd thought that was unfair, but the Elders had told them they could pay in blocks of four, with the contract stipulating they would pay for the year - even if they left early. It was still unfair but the rent was cheaper than she'd expected.
But if nothing else, the year gave them some stability. She was thankful for that because while America was far enough away to run from some problems, the need for proof of residence for their visas gave them permanency. And she really wanted that.
They could leave, sure, but it would just make everything far harder. And she was ready to stay in one place for as long as she could.
She was under no illusions. They would probably move once the tenancy contract was up. But she would be twenty-one going on twenty-two by that point and legally, she would be able to take guardianship over Eve if they both wanted to stay.
And it wasn't like she couldn't afford to look after her.
Besides, Eve would be eighteen herself soon enough and she'd said more than once that she was going to go to university. Whether she went to one in the US or in the UK, Eve seemed perfectly happy moving out and living by herself.
So, while Naima hoped that they would all stay together, she knew that it was always helpful to have a backup plan just in case.
Just like with that green paint.
Hijab - a covering some Muslim women wear which is designed to cover their hair.
AN: So, what did you think of Naima and her...interaction...with Sam? Let me know. Also, I was a little bit iffy about the way they were renting the house. I don't know...I wanted a legitimate reason for randos to move onto established Native American land. Does it check out, do you think?
A big thank you to my Beta reader H for this. She's helped me a lot with it. Also, thank you Elle.L and Nakomi for following (hope you enjoyed this update) and Elle.L and cnicholson1995 for favouriting.
Have a good rest of your Sunday!