The land was sharp and crisp compared to the deep south where they lived before. Niska gazed out of her window as her mother drove towards their new home. It was sad, this change of scenery, but necessary. The locals back in Louisiana had found them out, and it had cost the tiny family dearly.
Niska closed her eyes, remembering the fire. Her father screaming as they lynched him. Tears slipped from her eyes as she struggled with the recent memory. He was in so much agony, but he didn't scream for mercy or help. He told them to run and flee, and it's what saved their lives.
Nishka's mother leaned over and wiped her cheek tenderly. "Hey, hon. Don't...don't think about that anymore, okay?" Her mother was just as shaken as she was, but they tried not to talk about things. Nishka felt the sharpness of her mom's restrained claw scratch her just beneath the eye. An accident. Nishka turned away, so that her mother couldn't see her anymore, and couldn't remind her of their stupid curse.
"It's going to be alright, honey," her mother cooed, but neither seemed to believe it.
The car, old and small and boxy, turned off the winding mountain road. There was sagebrush everywhere, and rocks protruding from the dry ground.
Her mother shook at her shoulder nervously, the gesture full of taut strength."Hey, we're almost here. Get ready, Nishka." There was worry in her mom's voice, and that broke the girl from her lament. Survival was everything, and there wasn't time to indulge in anger or sorrow when survival was called into question.
With an ease developed from a lifetime of practice, Nishka arranged her veils to hide her face. Both Nishka and her mother had skin that was deeply tanned, and they pretended to be Hindu in order to conceal their features. Layered veils can hide almost anything.
"Okay, what are we going to do," her mom asked, running through the checklist. The same checklist they had used since Nishka was six and her mom had taken her on a trip to the small town of Marmot for supplies.
"Mom!" Nishka whined. "I don't want to do this."
She got a glare in return, and a predatory growl to back it up. Her mother was sweet and kind, but she had bared her claws at Nishka before.
"Fine," she muttered, unhappy but compliant. She gazed at her mother's veiled face, not quite meeting her wild, green eyes as she spoke. "Get into your seat when you get out. If something happens, drive away. Fast."
Her mother looked at her for a short while, but Nishka couldn't tell what she was thinking beneath the orange and yellow silks. "I filled up the car just before we left the highway, baby, so if you have to...you can drive far on what's in there."Nishka nodded, and her mother told Nishka that she loved her.
Moments later they pulled up to it. The house was old, and many of the windows were broken; it was a real dump. But it served their needs. In the middle of the country, without neighbors for miles. There were wooded groves nearbye where they might find some privacy. The ad had mentioned a pond somewhere, and a shallow well. They could survive here, and her mother had drilled into her that survival was all that mattered.
Nishka watched her mom get out of the car, and shifted to the driver's seat as soon as she left the car. She sat there, with the car running, until her mom was done with the greasy realtor. Nothing exceptional about the situation. At one point he put his hand on her mother's arm, and Nishka slowly put the car into reverse. She wasn't sure if things were about to get gory or not. But then he dropped his grasp, got into his shiny new car, and left.
Once he was gone, Nishka got out of the car and turned off the ignition. She didn't feel confident enough to remove her veils yet, so she prespired heavily in her long garb: black veils, and a flowing black skirt. Every bit of her skin was covered, except for the slit where her eyes looked out. The two women began to unpack the car in silence.