“I don’t want to stay here.”
My mom looked at me as if I had just slapped her. This was the third time in as many days that we had fought about my decision to move to La Push – which she refused to understand or support.
Seeing the hurt expression on her face, I backtracked a little. “Look, the job I got is exactly what I’ve wanted for two years. I’m sick of being a barista, I want to teach. You know Mrs Lano isn’t retiring for another five years, right? Emily got me this job, mom. I have to go.”
Mrs Lano was the English teacher at the Makah reservation where I had lived all of my life, except for the four years I’d been in college to become a teacher. I had genuinely never expected to return home after college, but when my dad decided to up and leave my mom, I did so without question. Two years and a new boyfriend for my mom later, however, I was still working in the tiny Makah high school as a secretary. There was only one English teacher needed and when my cousin Emily offered me a job at the school she worked at in La Push, I just didn’t think twice.
My mom shook her head slowly. “I just don’t think La Push is safe for you, Hana. Have you seen Emily’s scars?”
I sighed, annoyed now. I was a grown-ass woman. “I’ll make sure I avoid the bears, mom.”
“Sweetie… Are you sure this isn’t about Jamie?”
I fought to keep all emotions off my face, although I was ready to either hurl insults at her or start crying. “No mom, it’s not about Jamie. There are other things that I find important in life, you know.”
“Darling, it’s just you’ve been so upset since the break-up and…”
I didn’t let her finish, speaking over the second part of her sentence loudly. “So yeah, Emily and Sam are picking me up tomorrow afternoon. I’m going to pack.” And with that I stormed upstairs.
As soon as I entered my room I shook my head to clear it. I had postponed packing ever since I knew I’d be moving, mostly because I didn’t want to go through the emotional process of throwing everything that reminded me of Jamie into the garbage. Jamie had been my first ever “boyfriend”, a white man I met going out in a nearby town one night. He was the first guy that ever looked at me twice, and when he pushed his tongue into my mouth I mistook it for love. He’d clearly never cared about me more than as someone who was there to fuck when he couldn’t find anyone else, as I’d found out a month ago that he’d been cheating on me since the beginning.
I understood my mom’s worries. For the first two weeks, I’d called in sick to work and had hardly gotten out of bed. That’s when I got the call from Emily, telling me there was an opening for an English teacher in La Push and since the school board preferred native teachers, the job was mine if I wanted it. And honestly, although I had been hoping for such a job for two years, my first thought was that moving to La Push would get me away from Jamie and my embarrassment. I accepted immediately, and made arrangements to move at the beginning of the summer holidays so that I’d have time to get to know the place (and so that I’d have no chance of running into Jamie at all).
With a sigh, I opened my closet, ready to just about burn the shirts of his I know I would find.
As soon as I heard the truck stop in front of our house, I ran outside to hug Emily.
“I missed you so much!” I whispered, as I held her close. “You too, Hana”, she sighed, as she squeezed me tighter.
It felt great to finally hold my cousin in my arms again. We’d been close since we were kids, but I didn’t see her nearly enough now that she’d moved to La Push and found true love – engaged, pregnant, surrogate mother to five hundred twenty year-olds if her stories were to be believed. Because of college, working there full-time over the summer to pay my debt, and now taking care of my mom every day and being too absorbed by Jamie to open my damn eyes, I’d never visited her in La Push.
“You are Hana, I presume”, a deep voice said from somewhere behind us. I looked up and felt my own eyes widen.
Emily and I facetimed weekly, and so I had seen her husband over the phone quite a few times as he seemed incapable of not kissing her for longer than five minutes. Nevertheless, I was slightly shocked to meet the giant, muscular, half-naked (why?) man she called Sam. He shook my hand politely, introducing himself, and then offered to get my bags from the house.
As soon as he’d disappeared through the open door, I turned to Emily and whispered, “Well done”, with a nod towards the retreating figure of her fiancé. She blushed a little, letting a hand fall down to her slight baby-bump. “Yeah, he’s something”, she murmured, somehow still star-struck after all these years.
I strangled the jealous voice in my head that screamed it wasn’t fair, and instead gave her another hug.
As Sam returned, carrying all of my bags in one hand, my mom appeared in the doorway as well. I sighed, and Emily was wise enough to say, “Hello Angie! We’re going to wait in the car”, before leaving us alone.
My mom looked at me, and I could see she was putting up a brave face. I tried to say something, but she held up a hand to stop me. “I know what you’re going to say, Hana. It’s fine, I know you’re an adult and you need to find your own way. I wanted to say thank you for coming home when I needed it. I know it wasn’t what you wanted, but you did so anyway and that isn’t a child’s job.”
I opened my mouth to protest, but she put her hand up again. “Don’t protest. I’m just worried about you, but I know you need to do this. I’m going to miss you.”
As I didn’t know what to say, I just hugged her. “I’ll call you every week.” My mom nodded and gave me a brave smile. I smiled, turned around, got in the car, and said goodbye to my hometown.
During the one hour drive to La Push, Emily and I caught up, Sam chiming in sometimes to express how very good Emily was a being pregnant, being a fiancé, and being a human being in general. It was cute, really, how in love he clearly was with her. I wasn’t jealous at all, nope, not even a little bit.
“So…”, Emily began, a little hesitant, “Have you heard from Jamie?” Emily was the only one who knew the full extent of what had happened between us, and even she didn’t know that he’d actually cheated on me more than once.
I chuckled without humour. “Yeah, he calls me about once a day, leaving voicemails that vary from ‘I love you and I’m so sorry’ to ‘you slut’ to ‘you will never find anyone else’ so that’s always fun.”
Emily turned around so she was facing me, a frown on her face. “You know that’s not true, right?"
I shrugged. “I guess.”
Sam shook his head from the driver’s seat. “You know you deserve better, right? That white boy doesn’t deserve to even look at you.”
I was surprised by how fiercely he said the words. I smiled at him through the rear-view mirror. “Thanks, Sam.” If only I believed him, that’d be aces.
The house Emily and Sam shared was way bigger than I’d imagined, with a large garden and a huge kitchen slash living room. In that living room, three guys of about Sam’s build were sleeping on the floor. As I raised my eyebrow at Emily, she smiled and said, “Sam’s very close with his friends. All of them pretty much live here. That’s Jared, Embry and Quil you see passed out before you.”
I nodded, silently wondering why three full-grown adults were asleep in the middle of the day, on the floor, but I decided to save that question for another day.
“Thanks for letting me stay here, Emily. I promise I’ll look for a place as soon as I can.”
Emily smiled. “Don’t worry about it. There’s always room for one more person in this house!”
Sam returned from somewhere upstairs. “I put your bags in your room, Hana. I’ll show you the bathroom in a bit. Do you want some coffee?”
“Yes please”, I answered, smiling thankfully.
“Me too, Sam”, a gruffy voice from the living room shouted, followed by two more “me too’s” from the other two boys.
“Would you lazy asses come greet my cousin?” Emily scolded them, and the three guys got up to shake my hand, introducing themselves. They had very, very warm hands, and a part of my brain wondered for a second whether the reason they were sleeping on the floor was some sort of weird disease. The other part of my brain was busy processing the fact that I was surrounded by three very tall, very buff, very attractive La Push boys who were apparently over in this house all the time. Interesting.
“So, you’re Hana, right?” the boy called Jared asked me. I nodded, taking a cup of coffee from Sam.
“You coming to the bonfire?” Quil asked, with a quick glance at Sam.
“Eh, I don’t know?” I said, looking at Emily.
“Of course she is”, Emily said, smiling, as she took my hand. In the corner of my eye, I saw Sam press his lips together a little, although his eyes remained kind.
I smiled. “Sure.”
Emily moved closer to me, whispering, "I've got a bottle of tequila saved for you. That'll make you forget about the douchebag." I grinned at her, nodding. That would help me forget about him, quite literally.
“Okay guys, we need to go… work,” Sam said, trailing off vaguely. The three stood up straight, nodded, and followed him outside. Odd, I thought, but before I could ask Emily what just happened, a more pressing question appeared in my mind.
“So, are all of Sam’s friends underwear models, or what?”