The Character: ‘Naomi’

Naomi plays an important role in my novel Efraim’s Eye.  When we first meet her she comes into the lounge of the Riad el Norj (a small hotel) in Marrakech, introduces herself to Paul, and “settled herself on the sofa opposite him, her legs folded under her and her brown leather sandals on the floor.  She was wearing a long, Laura Ashley, flower-print dress with short sleeves and a high neckline.  Her purse – a small brown leather sack with red, silk rope ties – lay by her sandals.”

The charity for which Paul was to complete the crucial auditing assignment had already briefed him (superficially) on Naomi, who, as Operations Director of the charity would join him in Marrakech to assist him with the language and the audit.  The chief executive of the charity had told Paul, “Naomi grew up in Jerusalem.  Her mother is Jewish and her father is a Swedish musician.  As a child, she learned Hebrew, Arabic, Swedish and some English.  She has a degree in languages from City University in London, so her English is polished, and she’s picked up German, French and Spanish as well. . . . Naomi has great language skills, is very good with people, and she fully understands what GYE is about.  What you bring to the team is business experience and financial skills. . . . If she didn’t work for GYE, Naomi would probably be a musician.  Don’t get me wrong, she does a great job for us, but she doesn’t particularly like confrontations.”

What the chief executive knew, at the time, was that Paul would have to confront the CEO of the small Moroccan subsidiary of GYE.  What he didn’t know was that the assignment would also involve a confrontation with the CEO’s half brother: Efraim, the terrorist.

In listening to Naomi tell her life history (she was in her mid-thirties), he understood that Naomi had an unsettled relationship with her father, who abandoned his wife and small daughter to return to Sweden.  And Paul, reliable, steady Paul, in his mid-fifties, became, for Naomi, a surrogate father as the pressure of the confrontations increased.

Paul could see that Naomi was beautiful and desirable.  What he didn’t see – until they became lovers – was her child-like naivete.  Their passionate love affair forced her to confront her own assumptions about what she wanted out of life.

She experienced another transformation when she was abducted and severely beaten by Efraim: her culturally ingrained thirst for retaliation burst forth.  Naomi turns the tables on Efraim when Paul captures Efraim and sets her  free: she beats Efraim with his whip.  Paul asked, “He didn’t . . . I mean I know he whipped you. but did he . . .” Paul was unable to utter the words.”
“No, if he had, I would have shot him in the balls, and then after a while – probably quite a while – I would have shot him in the head.”

Paul looked at her searchingly.  She gave him a slight smile and turned away.  “You don’t understand,” she began, “how your sweet little charity nomad could turn into such an unmerciful fury.”  Paul nodded.

She shrugged.  “I don’t know.  The hate and anger just boiled up overwhelmingly inside me.  Something snapped.  I couldn’t whimper and plead.  I felt powerfully defiant.  I was God’s chained angel, and he was the devil incarnate!  Besides, Israelis believe absolutely in the power of retribution.”

In the aftermath of Efraim’s attack on the eye, Naomi makes another transformation which effects not only her, Paul and Paul’s children, but also Sarah, Paul’s former lover.

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