She wakes up with a stiff neck and dry mouth when the plane hits the tarmac. She had been cramped up in this tiny space for hours with no room to stretch her long legs, save her trips to the loo. Naomi looks out the small window and she feels like she's been transported to another dimension. Aside from the tall buildings there are mountains with tropical trees in the background, the ocean in the far side of her view, and it's a hot sunny day, entirely different from where the plane had left 16 hours ago. It has been the longest flight of her life but she slept through most of it; the fatigue she had been feeling since two weeks ago, the sleepless nights, the mechanical shift of her life since her mum died and how she refused to deal with it just took a toll on her.
The flight attendant announced through the speakers that they've reached Honolulu and it's currently 10:30 a.m. in their time zone. Like her, the rest of the passengers are all tired from the trip and they walked like a herd of zombies towards the exit.
Naomi wondered if what brought these people from London to Hawaii, do at least one of them had the same reasons as her? Did they want to escape the place that reminds them how much their lives had gone to shit? She doubts it. Most of them are probably tourists, some for business, but not to escape the past. Or the present.
"Aloha, welcome to Hawaii." She forces a smile and say thank you every time the airport employees greet her.
She goes over to the baggage claim area for her black trolley bag, the only other luggage she brought with her. She panics that she couldn't find it right away, after all her life is in that baggage, at least the parts she chose to keep and so she heaved a big relieved sigh when she sees it next to a green suitcase.
She walks around the airport looking for the money changer. She observes the busy people around as she does; walking pass each other trying to catch flights, parents looking for lost children, some moving quick to the exit to leave the commotion of the busy airport.
People: they come and go. They come in your life, change it one way or another then leave. That's how it is and when they decided to permanently leave you, like fucking dying, you just feel lost. Like a kid lost in a busy airport full of strangers.
She finds the money changer on the other side of the airport, near the Starbucks. She exchanged a couple of hundred pounds to dollars and bought a tall espresso from Starbucks after. She goes out the airport, bag on one shoulder, trolley in one hand and the coffee in another. She takes a taxi to get her out the city to Waipahu.
"First time in Hawaii miss?" Naomi peels her eyes away from the cup of coffee and looks at the driver through his rear view mirror. He's a middle aged man and his hair's got a share of few grays in them.
"I've been here before, once. When I was a kid."
"You're in vacation?"
"I was the first time, but not now. I'm staying for good."
"Ah, you have relatives here?"
She looks out the window. "No." I don't have relatives anywhere.
Naomi drinks her espresso and wished she ordered it cold instead, the heat of this tropical island is something she have to adjust to. She continues to look outside and watches the cars and people they pass by. Gone is the London with the wet pavements and busy streets with honking double- decked bus and speeding taxis. Instead of birch trees, coconut trees are all over the side of the roads.
This is the place she's going to try and rebuild her life. And she's going to do it right, she promised herself.
Once they reached Waipahu, she asked the driver to bring her to a cheap hotel. He drives for another five minutes and stopped in front an old white building, only around ten storeys high. Naomi pays him twenty dollars, gave him an extra five for not talking much during the drive, but she didn't tell him that and pulled her trolley into the lobby. Walking in, she sees maroon chairs scattered over the room, half are occupied by the hotel guests. She approaches the front desk when she's satisfied with the place; it's clean and looks safe enough.
"Aloha, how can I help you today?" the clerk, a young curly haired woman wearing a floral dress and a lei around her neck asked her cheerfully.
"I'd like to check in for three days."
"Do you have any reservations?"
The clerk, who according to her name tag is Annie, types something in the desktop.
"Will that be a room for one ma'am?"
"Yeah, just one."
"Any identification card?"
Naomi digs through her shoulder bag and produce her school ID that will expire in two months.
Annie types her name and gives her ID back. "Will you pay in cash or credit card, Miss Campbell?"
Naomi takes one hundred, three fifties, two twenties and one ten and pays her check. A guy who looks like a prepubescent boy with abnormally huge muscles took her things and showed Naomi her room on the seventh floor.
By the time she shed her shoes and sat on the bed, it's almost one p.m. and she's just tired. Even too tired to eat. She decided to lie down a bit and close her eyes.
She slept for the rest of the afternoon and woke up with a rumbling stomach.
"Jesus…" she croaks out, feeling how dry her throat is. The room is dark and she slowly lied up and felt for the bedside lamp. She finds it and switched it open, bathing the room with yellow glow. She rubs her forehead and pinched the bridge of her nose, trying to shake off the sleep. For a second she doesn't remember where she is but reality came crashing back almost instantly, crushing her all over again.
"You can do this, you can do this…"
She blew thirty dollars on room service.
She eats her roasted fish and caviar with champagne, with the voices from the telly and the sound of waves hitting the shore distracting her from the deep thoughts she has. She let herself drink tonight, just this night, to loosen up the cranky feeling the 16-hour flight had caused. Tomorrow, she needs to be sober to look for a place to live.
This is nothing like her. Leaving home and going to a different place without hatching up a plan first. But she had to, Gina Campbell is all she had and with her gone, there's no point of staying.
She clutched the bottle of champagne in her hand, looks through her bag for her pack of cigarettes and lighter and walked to the balcony. The glass door squeaked as she slides it open, the sea breeze instantly hitting her body making her shiver as she steps out on the little open space. She sits on the floor and lights a cigarette whilst she cradle the bottle of liquor like a child cradling her teddy bear. Naomi stares out towards the sea she knows it's there despite the fact that she can't see it through the darkness. But she can hear it, and that's enough to calm her.
"I miss you mum," she mumbles. "It's fucking hard to move on because I miss you every single day. I fucking want to quit so bad," she stares at the healing wounds on her wrists. Multiple slashes from a cutter she took from her study desk and drove through her skin just to feel something. "But I know that's not what you want me to do and I'm sorry for even considering it. I won't put all your efforts on me go to waste. I'll try to live, even if it fucking kills me."
She told herself not to cry, doesn't let herself grieve anymore, because she lost all her tears a week ago and honestly, it just felt draining and tiring, both physically and emotionally.
But it's hard to do all of that especially when she feels so alone and lonely.
She wakes up early the next day, took a long shower and put on the first pieces of clothing she finds which includes a faded blue shirt and a pair of tight jeans.
She rents a car from the hotel, a silver Honda Civic. She slowly drives around Waipahu just to have a feel of the place. She likes the towering mountains and the quietness of the place, not much traffic too. The houses on this side of the island were mostly old, not more than two floors high, some of them only feet away from the water. Naomi likes it.
She drives for a little longer and spots an old bungalow building. Hukilao Café, says the sign in front and a bunch of cars are parked on the lot beside it.
Naomi parks beside a pickup truck full of Spam and kills the engine. She walks up the three rickety steps and pushed on the screened door. Inside, the diner's half full by mostly locals. Bob Marley's softly singing in the speakers.
Could you be loved and be loved
Could you be loved and be loved
Naomi felt suddenly out of place in her pale skin among the tanned locals eating their breakfasts and talking to each other. The smell of coffee and fresh pancakes made her stomach rumble. She silently slides into one of the bar stools that surrounds the counter, the old man looked up from his plate to smile at her and she smiles back tightly. A gentle- faced, stocky woman in her fifties wearing green flowery dress and a dirty white apron approaches her, a kettle from a coffee maker in her hand.
"Aloha honey what can I get for you?" she greets Naomi as she rounds up the counter.
Naomi's a bit taken aback by her friendliness and takes a second to respond. "I guess I'll get a cup of coffee."
"British! I knew you were one when you got in." Naomi smiles back politely, not sure how to respond. "Just a cup of coffee? Now, have you eaten breakfast?"
"How about I'll get you spam and eggs to go with your coffee?"
"Uh sure, thanks."
The woman places a mug in front of Naomi and pours her coffee. "I'll be right back," she says and disappears in the kitchen.
Naomi takes a sip of the coffee. Freshly brewed, just the way she likes it. The view from the windows on her left side's the water; a coast guard ship's dotting the horizon. She looks around, people having breakfast, enjoying a cup of coffee before they start their day, and Naomi wished life would always this be simple. Like in the mornings where the sun's just up promising a good day ahead.
"Here you go." A plate's served in front of her.
"Excuse me, can I ask you something?"
"Sure honey, what is it?"
"I'm planning on staying in the area for a while and I was wondering if you know any place I could stay in, house for rent perhaps?"
The woman placed her hands on her hips and thinks. "Let's see, let's see… Oh! You know what, one of my regular customers needs a boarder in her house. She usually comes in during this time to get breakfast with her son. Why don't you hang around until she arrives and I'll talk to her?"
Naomi wasn't thinking about sharing a house with a family but she doesn't have a job so she needs to conserve the money she got from selling her flat in London, her mum's house in Bristol and her sedan car since she'll be here in a long run. Just until you could properly settle.
"Thanks, that would be great. I'm Naomi by the way."
"Hi dear, I'm Sue. You're very pretty."
Naomi faintly blushes. "Thank you."
Naomi proceeds to eat her breakfast. She never had a Spam before and she discovered she liked it with a little bit of ketchup. She surprisingly enjoyed eating, even ended up striking a conversation with Sue.
"You plan on staying for good, have you got yourself a job?"
"No, I just arrived yesterday actually. I didn't have much of a plan when I decided to move here. I'm staying in a hotel at the moment."
"What kind of job do you have in mind?"
"Anything really, I don't care."
"What do you think about working here?" Naomi's eyes widen because really, it's too good to be true landing a job and finding a prospective place to live in just her second day in the island.
"I'll be glad to but are you sure? You barely know me." she says hesitantly. Sue's too nice and she doesn't want to abuse it.
"Yeah, yeah, you seem like a really sweet girl and Linda's moving to Maui soon and I'll need another waitress. You don't mind wiping tables and taking orders at ten dollars an hour, are you?"
Naomi allowed herself to smile, thankful that there are still people like Sue who would help a stranger without hesitation. "No, it's great, very. Thank you very much."
"You can start as soon as you get settled, no hurry," Sue assured her. The door chimes jingles as it opens. "Oh here's Emily."
Naomi turns to look. Short height, red vibrant hair, brown eyes, button nose, surprisingly pale skin. Holding into her hand is a little boy with tousled jet black hair and the same brown eyes as his mother. Naomi returns her gaze to the woman who looks at their direction when Sue calls out her name.
Naomi thought Emily would be older, since she has a son and all but she looks just about the same age as her. The kid's around three of four.
"Good morning Sue," Emily greets, revealing her dimples as she smiles while the boy waved enthusiastically. Naomi wonders where his dad is.
"Hi there handsome," Sue waves back at him. "What do you want for today?"
"Pancakes!" he says, jiggling his hand that's holding on to his mother's, shaking Emily's arm in the process.
"Make it two," Emily says.
"Emily I want you to meet Naomi."
Emily looks at Naomi and smiles. "Hello, Emily Fitch."
"Hi. Naomi, Naomi Campbell." Naomi's accent tickles Emily's ears. She haven't met much British people in the island.
"Naomi's new here and she was looking for a place to stay and I mentioned you were looking for a boarder."
"Oh, that's great," Emily exclaims. "I badly need one since Micah started going to school. I can't believe tuition's that high now." The boy detached his hand from Emily and sat on the stool beside Naomi, stares at Naomi with a little grin. "This is Micah by the way, he's three," she says, patting his head.
Micah touched Naomi's hand and squeezes it.
"Hello," Naomi tells him, shaking his little hand.
"I'm Micah. I'm three." He holds out three of his fingers to her.
"It's nice to meet you Micah, my name's Naomi."
Emily smiles at the little interaction her son's making with the beautiful woman with the blonde hair. He's not normally friendly to people he first meet.
"So Naomi, you want to see the house?"
Naomi looks up from where Micah is fumbling with her left hand, curling and uncurling her fingers. Her blue eyes remind Emily of how the sea looks like in a sunny day, so blue its mesmerizing.
"Yes, I'd love to."
"I'm doing some errands this morning, you don't mind if I'll meet you here this afternoon?"
"Of course not, not at all."
"I'll get your pancakes," Sue says, moving towards the kitchen.
"Thanks Sue, on the go please, there's a lot of orders in the flower shop today."
"Extra syrup," Emily grins. Sue goes to the kitchen and Emily lifts her son from the stool and sat there instead and places Micah on her lap. "What are you doing in Hawaii? You look like you're from a far place."
"Oh, my mum died. Don't feel like staying."
"I'm very sorry to hear that." Naomi's sick of people saying they're sorry, her ears practically bleed at the amount of sorry she received the past weeks. But she welcomed Emily's because she looked genuinely concerned, which is funny since they only met five minutes ago.
"Where you from?"
"I was studying in London but I live in Bristol."
Emily shifts Micah on her lap. "You went to the right place you know, people are friendly here. I moved here when I had Micah, I'm from San Francisco originally."
"That's me!" Micah says when he heard his name.
"Yeah," Emily says, pinching his side making him wiggle and giggle. "It's just me and him in the house, my gran used to own it."
"And his dad?" Naomi inquired, gazing at Micah which is now playing with his mom's hands.
"Oh, we're not together but he visits once in a while," Emily shrugs.
Emily sensed what Naomi's thinking. "I manage, Micah's a good boy, aren't you?" she pushed her son's hair out his eyes when he nods eagerly, reminding Emily that he needs to go back to the barber for his haircut soon.
Sue comes back with the pancakes and Emily pays for it. "I'll see you here at lunch then, around one?" Naomi nods. "Okay, bye, Mahalo Sue." She smiles at her one last time and takes Micah's hand.
Micah waves as they're leaving. "Bye Naomi."
Naomi waves back. She doesn't normally like children but the kid reminds her of her friend Cook that went to college with her.
Naomi also tries to disregard the fact how she finds Emily exceptionally beautiful. She finds it weird how she finds another woman this beautiful.