LATE LOVE

                       

 

Foreword

 

 

I am writing this book in memory of Sigi Sonntag, the man who surrounded me with sincere and unconditional friendship, encouraged me whenever I ventured into a new literary endeavor, protecting me with the wings of an older and good brother. As is usually the case in life, we realize with great delay the beauty of the gesture of a hand outstretched with generosity, and we express our thanks only when it is too late.

Reaching the last page of this book, I knew that I had written it at the constant urging of Sigi Sonntag, who did not want to accept a waiver from me, insisting that I continue. I thank him for that now! I deeply regret that he left us, me and all those who loved him. Obviously, family and friends, for whom he was always a reliable support.

I bless his memory forever.

Hedi S. Simon

 


Chapter I

 

LAST LOVE

 

I'm heading for the elevator, but I go back, as usual, to check if the door is locked. Lately I've been very careful to keep the house in order, especially on days when I leave for several hours. It is rumored that several burglaries took place in our block and in the ones next to it, and the neighbors panicked. I laugh and tell everyone that I don't own any valuables, and the thieves would do me a favor by removing the piano from the small room. I alone am not able to move it and I could use an extra space. I could possibly put another bookcase there.

Actually, I wouldn't like meeting thieves. I live alone in the apartment and sometimes, in the evening, I'm a little scared, but I have the courage to say: "it won't happen to me!"

Therefore, I enter the elevator, after another check of the door, and at the same time I forget about thieves and other petty filth. For a few seconds I am alone in the small cabin, with myself, that is, with my image in the mirror. I would like to know what I look like, but it is impossible for me to be objective. Every morning I have a different opinion about myself. Sometimes, when I wake up in a good mood, I seem to see something still acceptable. I mu hair in reddish-blonde, I apply a discreet make-up only once a day, and the clothes are usually suitable for the time of day and age, without completely ignoring fashion. I shortened my skirts to a decent length and made sure my things weren't brightly colored, but not old-fashioned either. After all, I enjoy listening to my coworkers who tell me that I look good and ageless. What women say matters a lot; they find it a little
difficult to praise another woman. Instead, I never listen to what men say, because I consider them liars.

I still have days when I leave the house nervous and in a black mood. In those days I take one look at my image in the mirror and I throw only one word: hag! Then I turn to the elevator doors.

Today, on the other hand, being in a very good mood, I see myself all in the blue-sky color, which suits me well and I am happy before the business meeting I will have at 9 o’clock, with some competitors that I can't wait to I put "against the wall".

I work hard for this and I already smell victory; today the mirror shows me Iulia Bergman from 25 years ago, the fighter, ready to attack, like a lioness who has come very close to the prey. I have an old debt to pay to people who have worked very hard to dig me out of my job. Today is the big moment for me.

While admiring myself in the mirror, I see that my eyes have acquired a special glow that I have not seen since my youth. This means that I would like an injection of adrenaline like now, at least once a week, to have a goal to conquer. Otherwise, the routine and monotony of life destroy and age me. I smile once more at my own image, much improved by my mood, and I turn to the door to go out, but in that moment the red lights indicating the floors turns on and I see that I didn’t go downstairs, but I was taken upstairs, on the 10th floor. I'm ready to get angry about this delay when the cabin doors open and a dog rushes in, accompanied by a man. I don't notice who the man is because I'm very busy stroking the white head and long, coffee-colored ears of the dog that threw itself at me from the first moment, digging its paws into my carefully ironed skirt last night. I'd like to take it off me, but I'm afraid this kitten disguised as a dog will stick its claws in my skirt and pierce it. And I'm in too much of a hurry to go home to change. I hear the voice of the master, who guessed my thoughts:

- The puppy had a pedicure yesterday, so your dress is safe, but if you still want to take it off, it's enough to greet him with a Shalom.

I smile at the little dog and say:

- Shalom, I don't know your name.

The puppy immediately sits and extends its left paw. I shook my skirt, realized it was unharmed, then bent down and stroked it again with both hands, tugging at its ears.

- Alas, what a polite puppy you are, a little gentleman. And you're a so handsome, but didn't the boss teach you to stretch your right paw when you introduce yourself to a lady?

The boss apologizes on his behalf, that is, hers. She's a little girl, her name is Pufi. But it can be seen that she is clumsy, I tried to show her my right hand but she didn't understand me.

- The left probably comes from the heart, meaning it received you wholeheartedly in its intimate entourage.

- How nice of Pufi to accept me so quickly! Doesn't she have better friends than me?

- Well, she doesn't. We only moved a week ago, and the other dogs in the block are huge next to her. So for now, I'm her only friend.

At that moment the elevator stopped. Pufi got ahead of us and quickly sprang into the grass. Well, with her needs. I'm in a hurry to catch the bus, but Pufi's boss is in the mood to talk. I look at him better and, frankly, I like what I see.

In any case, he does not look like the specific Israeli man. That is, he is missing his belly, his pants flowing between his thighs, his sandals with only two laces hastily placed over his bare feet. None of this. First of all, he is very tall, my neck is already sore because of the two or three glances I raised at him to see his face. And I saw some smiling, gentle eyes measuring me friendly, but not indiscreetly. And he was nicely dressed, as I like to see men: a pale gray shirt, as if taken out of the box, a modern cloth pants, but still cloth and light beige summer shoes. I think: what a caring housewife his wife is! That's how a man has to leave the house!

But I ask him something else entirely:

- Why did you call the puppy Pufi?!

- Well, why not?

- Because it's a dog's name! I mean, excuse me, it's none of my business to get involved in matters of baptism. The man burst into a healthy, infectious laugh that brightened his eyes even more. And I was ashamed of my own stupidity.

- Neighbor, he says, still smiling, I apologize for being rude.

- Did I say that? In the few moments we've been talking, you haven't had enough time to be rude.

- Yes, yes! I introduced Pufi, but I didn't introduce myself. It’s not fair! You said I was the puppy's boss and you guessed it. I'm not just her master, but also her personal doctor. I mean, a veterinarian, Aharon Braun. For friends, Ari.

I hold out my hand and surprise, he kisses it like in ancient times in Europe. I muttered my name too:

- Iulia Bergman and for friends Yael. Delighted to meet you, Ari, but now I have to fly, not go, I want to catch the first bus to the center, otherwise I will be late for work. It doesn't have to happen to me today.

- Well, wait a minute and I'll give you a ride by car. I’ll just get Pufi and we go.

- I can't afford a few more precious minutes. I’m leaving, goodbye and welcome to our house!

I start running and when I get to the station I take one last look at our block. Ari carries the puppy in his arms to the entrance, but at the last moment, before crossing the threshold, he turns his head, sees me and raises his left hand in greeting.

That's good, I think, and the master is left-handed, as well. You wonder why Pufi salutes with her left paw! Still smiling at this finding, I hurriedly boarded the bus that had just stopped next to me.

That day I worked late and full of enthusiasm, the maneuver I carefully planned was completely successful, and my opponents were defeated. The next day the general manager called me to his office. He talked to me for almost an hour about many issues related to the activity of the department I lead, namely the foreign trade of the company and at the end he made it clear that he was informed of what happened at the meeting in question which made me happy. I tried to guess what he was thinking about what had happened, but I didn't express my curiosity out loud. The deed is done, I tell myself, now if I upset him it’s his business and I didn't make any reference to the meeting. I gathered my papers and on the way to the door I said in a restrained and very polite voice:

- If you need me, or there are any problems, you can call me at any time. I won’t move from my office until at least 6 o'clock, if not later. And leaving, hearing a strange noise, I turned my gaze to the imposing office by the window. The director, looking at the papers he was spinning unknowingly, laughed, trembling and suffocating. Now I couldn't leave and pretend I hadn't heard anything. I waited for him to calm down a bit, then asked him:

- Say it right! Did a fly land on the tip of my nose and look funny? Can I find out if I caused you the crisis?

- Yes, you! he said, and began to laugh again, and added with a roar, you were wonderful! I listened to the recording twice. Do you know what I said in the end?

- No, how would I know?

- Beware of smart women!

- Are you firing me?

- No, on the contrary, I'm promoting you! But you didn't let me finish the idea: if you're still hit by the misfortune of hiring a smart woman, at least use her and exploit her to the fullest. So next week you will be appointed Deputy Director of Foreign Trade.

- You are a chauvinist and an exploiter! I accept the new title, but be careful not to combine it with the old salary.

The last reply provoked another outburst of laughter from the director: I had guessed his intentions.

This was my professional life. I was happy with it, it filled my existence. Apart from working hours, I had nothing else. The time I spent in the evening at home was my little vacuum in which I was spinning alone, trying to do something because I felt like a well-oiled machine, which worked perfectly 10-11 hours a day and suddenly had to stop. I was trying to avoid the thought that one day I would retire and then, what would happen then? What will I do with my time, with my own person? But I push these thoughts away as far as I can. But they come back in the evenings, when I don't have anything interesting to read, when the TV movies are repeated indefinitely and I try to prepare something in the kitchen, usually unsuccessfully. I change my mind at the last minute before making a cake, for example. What do I need it for? I don't eat much at home, maybe on Saturdays and then just an improvisation. My son rarely visits me. He is very busy with his studies, his job and a nice friend he lives with. They took a home in Iavne to be closer to Rehovot, where they both study. Of course we are very close to each other, I raised him alone. We talk on the phone every day, but these short calls can't fill the loneliness of my evenings. I try not to become a sentimental mother, much less an annoying one. When he calls me, we only talk as much as he wants to talk. I don't ask superfluous questions and I don't ask every day when he will come to visit. I made a deal with him: my house will always be our home. He uses the apartment key and comes when he wants, if possible, in the evening so we can see each other. But only if it is possible. In this way our relations have remained unchanged and I hope they will always remain so. One thing is for sure, we both love each other and can rely on each other.

One morning my son Dani called me at work. He asked if I would be home around 6 o'clock, he would like to come to my house on the way to Iavne.

- I've just arrived in Ramat-Aviv, I'm working at the university, he says, but I'll finish by 5-6.

- Come on, honey, I'll enjoy it. I can't wait to see you.

- Ok, ima[1], I'll try to get by 6 and see you light up the fridge a little.

- Of course, if I know you're coming, I'll make a midday light."

We were both laughing at our old joke. Whenever he can't find enough food, he tells me:

- Alas, imale, what a terrible darkness is in your refrigerator. The man is starving!

So I go to the supermarket next to the house where I can stock up. I throw in the cart a lot of food that can be prepared quickly: fresh eggs, chicken breast and fish schnitzels, ready-made, three bottles of Diet Cola, a box of berry ice cream, fresh strawberries, bread. I would like to gather everything on the shelves, just enough and what Dani likes, but I stop because I know he won't eat everything and the rest I will throw in the trash in a day or two. So I'm waiting my turn at the cash register and I plan to quickly make some potato meatballs, which the boy likes. As soon as I get in line, I quickly take out all the goods, which I throw one after the other in nylon bags. When everything was paid for and I was collecting two bags in each hand, I feel someone touching me lightly and pulling the weights off my fingers. I was startled to see the new neighbor behind me, ready to help me, carrying my bags.

-Shallom, Yael! I've been sitting next to you for a few minutes and you don't even notice me.

- Shallom! I was also thinking how to take action as soon as possible. I mean, I was making plans, that's why I didn't notice you. But you don't buy anything?

- I finished shopping and put everything in the car, but when I noticed you, I came back.

- You are very kind. And thank you!

- Come on, leave the politeness. I'd rather talk more friendly. Don't you think that would be possible?

- Sure, why not? But where did you put your shopping?

- Back there, nothing at all. Some milk and bonzo.

- Nothing for you? Everything for Pufy?

- Pufy, did you say? How cute! Would that be something like a diminutive?

- Not like that, it really is! She is so small that a whole name, no matter how short, is too long for her.

- Does this diminutive come from Romanian?

- Actually yes, it is a form taken from Romanian. But how do you know?

- I grew up with a Romanian grandmother, who did not manage to learn Hebrew until she was 75 years old. I loved this grandmother very much. It was, how can I tell you, instead of my mother. I still keep her books, which unfortunately I will never read. You will definitely have to see them.

- And you really don't know Romanian at all?

- I'd like to tell you I know, but I can't lie to you, even if it helps me make you like me. No, I don't know Romanian. Too many years have passed since my grandmother's death and I forgot what I knew.

- Well, it's ok! You have the advantage of reading in Hebrew and English. Instead, I really relax only by reading in Romanian. And I like you and Pufuleț anyway, I concluded, smiling.

- I enjoyed listening to the last sentence and I would like you to see my grandmother's books once, maybe you will translate the titles. It would help me to understand my grandmother, even if late, to know what she read, what her tastes were. Sometimes I get the impression that young people don't understand anything about the people around them. They return even love far too late.

I got home. Ari took everything to the kitchen. I didn't invite him in, I was in a hurry to start preparations. He asked me from the door:

- Do you have guests to buy so much? I mean, I see you at the window every night coming back empty-handed. I thought you were eating at work, just like me.

- That's right, I eat at work. In the evening I am satisfied with an apple or a tea. But my son is visiting me today, so I want to prepare something good for him. You know what they say, homemade. At least once every few months, otherwise he is very busy.

- Okay, I'm retiring, excuse me for keeping you.

- Thank you very much for your help!

- With great pleasure, whenever you need something, I'm here for you.

I kept the light on until the elevator arrived. Before entering, he asked about his grandmother's books.

- Yael, could you see them on Saturday? Bring them down to you?

- No, leave it, it's too complicated. I'll go up at about 12 o'clock. Or when I'm not bothering the lady. The elevator had already started and did not hear the end of the sentence.

Eventually I managed to prepare some good food, only I ate it myself. Dani couldn't reach me anymore because he finished his university work very late, much later than planned. He called me at 10 o'clock to tell me how sorry he was, but he was already close to Iavne. Next time he will come especially for me. And as usual I told him:

- Okay honey, you come when you can, you just come home, but without refrigerator warranty. And I was left with a lot of schnitzels, stuffed eggs and potato meatballs.

I was sitting at the table and thinking about what to do with all the plates neatly arranged in the living room. I also took out the white tablecloth, which I keep for special days. In the middle I put the bouquet of freesias that is never missing, because every Friday I buy my own flowers and I usually buy freesias, when possible. My dilemma is to throw everything away now or leave it for tomorrow? What if Dani has a job here tomorrow and finds a lot of light in the fridge for once? Okay, I'll leave them, though I'm sure he won't come tomorrow or the day after tomorrow.

Suddenly I hear barking in the yard, right in front of my window. Most of the neighbors have puppies and in the evening they go out one by one to solve their biological needs in the grass in front of the block. I open the window and look outside. From the block next door, I see the blonde neighbor with the two noisy puppies, and in the light coming from our door I see the tall figure of Ari and next to his feet Pufi's rests. She’s probably done her job.

I lean over the balcony and say quite slowly:

- Pufulet!

The puppy winced and pricked up her ears, then got up and began to jump happily, barking happily at me. The master turns to see who his four-legged friend is talking to, sees me and raises his left hand in greeting. And I imitate him and I call him up with my left hand. At the same moment they both disappear, I run to turn on the light and open the door. Pufi almost overturns me with joy and rushes into the house as if it were not her first visit at my place. Ari approaches shyly.

- Are we bothering? You said you would receive guests. I see my beast has already searched you.

- Come on, come in!

I take his hand and bring him to the living room. Pufulet has already settled into the largest armchair in front of the TV.

- The guest's place is already taken so you can choose any place you want; your friend is already feeling well. We both laugh and Ari asks me how my son left so early.

I could lie, tell him he was at 6 o'clock and left after 9 o'clock, being in a hurry to get home. But it doesn't make sense. Nothing happened, I don't owe you an apology.

- My son didn't leave early because he didn't come. He called me earlier to tell me that he would come another time, he was detained for too long at the university.

- I see, it's happening. So the whole table is intact.

- Exactly. I wanted to ask you if I could offer Pufuleț something from everything here. If the puppy eats, should I make her a package, or do you just give her bonzo?

Ari looks at me in a way that bothers me. I mean, I feel like he read me, that he understands how lonely and sad I am right now. He gets up and inspects the contents of the plates. He puts two potato meatballs on a plate and starts eating, which makes me happy. He swallows them standing by the table, then takes another three and comes back to sit next to me. He grabs a meatball and brings it close to my mouth.

- Take this one, the first one is for you. I can handle the other two, they’re incredibly tasty. He watches me swallow hard because the lump in my throat bothers me.

- Do you want strawberries?, I ask between swallows.

- Of course I do, but not now, when we're done with the meatballs, then we start with the strawberries.

I manage to grimace with a smile.

- But Pufi, what will she do?

- Don't worry, she got her dinner before she left, but she'll have a national holiday tomorrow. Instead of bonzo, she will receive meat schnitzels. I'll have enough for the day after tomorrow.

Suddenly I feel better, much better.

- Yaeli, tell me when you want us to go home. You 're probably tired.

- No, on the contrary, I don't want you to leave! I mean, stay as long as you can and as long as you want. Unless the lady is waiting for you.

- Who? No, you thought… no, I'm alone, just me and Pufi. The whole family, that's all, so we can stay as long as we can, just you to have us.

- At least you're a family, I add, and I regret it as soon as I said it. This is detrimental to my image as a strong woman, the only man in the foreign trade department. But Ari doesn't react, she doesn't answer, he just looks at me strangely and I'm sorry I can't decipher this look. Suddenly, he starts talking.

- I wanted to tell you about my son, you know, and I have a son. When will you have patience someday ...

- I'll be glad to hear the story of your son, but not now, Ari, please, not now! At this time, I’m in an inappropriate mood. Another time, on a clearer day. You just don't leave us, at least for a few more months.

- I don't know exactly, the builders promised me the house for September-October. But it does not matter. I stay in Tel Aviv, even in our neighborhood. If you take a look out the window you will see some new blocks at the end of the alley across the road. Yes? Well, behind them, some villas are being built.

- Like the ones here, across the street? A house for two families, isn't it?

- Something like that, except I bought both wings.

- God, for what? You and Pufulet in so many rooms? Or do you want to prepare a wing for your son?

- I wish I could, but that will never be the case again. My son lives in America and is well settled there. No, it’s not that. I just thought that in one of the wings I would open a doctor's office. Sure, it's a little risky at first, but it's getting harder and harder for me to commute beyond Kfar Saba; the work is too hard ...

- I believe you. I noticed that you are also called for emergencies in the evening and even at night. It's just unpleasant.

- You're right, that bothers me the most. Especially since lately the locals have started to protest whenever they see me going home after hours. They decided that the veterinarian has the obligation to live in the village. They also provided me with a garden house, isn’t it nice of them? So we agreed to look for the right man who would agree to bring his family to live permanently among them. And in the meantime, I'll look for a solution. Let's hope I found it.

After a few words, Ari stood up.

- It's time to go. You have to rest, and me too. We have a hard day tomorrow.

On the way to the door he calls his dog. I started to lead them, but I noticed that Pufi didn't even move from her armchair. She moves her tail in gratitude and overturns on her back, with her belly offered for scratching. I scratch her chin and whisper.

- Quick, run home, your dad is upset and leaves without you.

Ari turns, takes her in his arms and tells me on the way to the
door:

- You Pamper the puppy like a child. In the end, she won't want me at all. I wonder if you're not inviting me here only for the sake of the puppy. Now he finally managed to cheer me up. I say laughing:

- Admit we only knew each other because of Pufi.

- Well, that's how I arranged it that day. I pressed the elevator button on the 10th floor and waited until it brought you. Then I said to Pufi:

- Jump on her and tear her skirt! Isn't that exactly what happened?

I look at him with a gaping mouth and try to guess how much of what I've heard is a joke and how serious it is. He finds it funny how I look at him. Address the puppy:

- Say good night to Yael nicely, and brings her closer to me. Puffy licked my face in a few spots so fast you couldn't help but look away. I scream and start wiping myself with both hands, and Ari comes closer again and says,

- Let me help you! And he kisses me just as quickly on the places dampened by Pufuleț.

- Good night, Yaeli, will you invite me again or allow me to come uninvited?

I want to overcome the embarrassing moment by pretending that nothing happened. That's why I tell him:

- Come when you want, I don't have time to make invitations. In fact, you are my only guest.

- That's how I like it better. Can I come without a puppy?

- Ask Pufuleț if she gives up on me. Okay, good night to you both. Talk to you on Saturday night.

He was already beyond the door when I suddenly felt a warm hand caressing the top of my head, sliding to my cheek and pressing the tip of my nose with one finger in one last joke. I didn't manage to react in any way because they disappeared on the stairs, the man and his dog, without waiting for the elevator. At that moment I knew I loved them both.

A few busy days followed, when I left very early and returned broken, late in the evening. Sometimes running to the bus I could see my friends in the grass but I only had time for a hurried greeting and a wave of my hand. Obviously, the left hand. Sometimes Ari came to the edge of the fence and, raising his dog's paw, sent a greeting in response from both of them.

On Thursday, I received a phone call from my son, but being in the middle of a meeting, I whispered to the secretary to tell him that I would be back, but in the evening after 10 o'clock. It took a lot. I left after 9 o'clock and headed for the bus station. I could, of course, order a taxi, but I didn't want to give up the only opportunity to get some movement and breathe some air. I still hoped to find an open grocery store to buy some food. Just thinking about the food, my stomach made a revolting sound like a siren announcing danger, and I was really in danger of fainting from hunger. It seemed to me that I noticed an open door to a pizzeria across the street and I was about to cross when my instinct for self-defense stopped me. I felt a danger and I didn't know where it came from. Eventually I understood. A few young people were crowding at the door of the pizzeria, probably drunk, and at one point it seemed to me that I could see the gleam of a knife blade. I hurried to the next station, and my stomach calmed down as if by magic. I no longer thought about food, I rather wanted a bus or a taxi to take me from that place quickly. Suddenly I hear a horn, probably a taxi, I think, inviting me to get on, which I do without thinking long. I let out a sigh of relief and only then did I look at the driver next to me, who was my neighbor, Ari Braun. At that moment I felt so relieved as if saved from drowning.

- Hi, Yaeli, I've been following you for a few minutes and I see you very scared, what happened to you?

I explain the whole situation and wait for him to make joke. After all, it was stupid to run away so scared. Everything happened across the street and not next to me, and the quarrel between the boys did not concern me. But Ari took things more seriously.

- What kind of work do you have to come back at this hour alone? A whole world works 8 hours, every woman is at home10 in the evening, rested, fed, in front of the TV or quietly reading a book. What drives you to work like this?

- But where do you come from so late, not from work?

- That's right, but I was home at 6 o'clock, after which an emergency arose. I am responsible for the lives of some beings, I have nowhere to go and I go at any time I need to save them. But you, what are you fighting for, for money, for a career?

- Honey, I've already made my career. At the same time to raising a child. I've done something in my life though. Why give up right now, before the end? And then, when you get on the conveyor belt of your career, you can't stop. Instead of jumping on the bandwagon and breaking your bones. I hope you understood me. And there is something else. Let's just say I stop. The time is coming, soon I will even retire. And afterwards? Is there still life after that? What and who is waiting for me at home? Do you have any idea what a woman like me can do on the day when she no longer has to get up at 6 in the morning and go to a place where she is needed?

- Yes, let's say I have an idea what a woman like you can do and finds out that there is still life after the moment you jump on the conveyor belt. And there may be someone else who needs you at home.

- Are you giving me a puppy like Puffy?

- Yaeli, we're not kidding now. I'm serious.

- Speak up, I'm ready to listen to you.

- Not my dear, you're not ready to listen to me yet. You still don't know who I am. When you think I'm ready I'll listen to you!, but first explain to me why I haven't got home yet.

- Because we're not going home. We will first stop at a place to eat.

- Oh, well, how did you guess that's the first thing I need? I'm fainting from hunger.

- Well, I realized that at your meetings everything is done but not eating. I saw you when you left in the morning and I calculated the hours. It's time for a moment of respite.

- I am beginning to believe that you are my good angel and that you are always right.

- Write down the time and day when you recognized this. It's 10 and 14 minutes, Wednesday.

- I write down and acknowledge anything, just do something so I don't starve.

- Look, it's done, we're here. Do you want an Italian restaurant or a Romanian one? They’re both on this street.

- It doesn't matter, just to see a full plate.

- All right, come after me.

Of course we entered the Romanian restaurant.

Ari told me:

- You're a specialist, so please order!

- For both?

- For both. I have every confidence in your skill.

I placed an order so large that the whole staff was happy, including the maître d’hôtel, who came several times to ask how satisfied we were.

I don't know what Ari thought, but I, after swallowing a raw pork steak, two grilles minced meat rolls, a double portion of French fries and pickles, I started to see the world in beautiful colors, the place seemed very beautiful to me, adorable music, awakening long dormant memories. And my partner, who was always watching me with a gentle and joking look at the same time, was dearer and dearer to me. Especially since he never referred to my hunger, which I just managed to calm down. But I felt so good and happy in those moments that I wouldn't be mad at him even if he joked about me. Only Ari was the man of surprises. He suddenly asks me:

- Could you tell me how long we've known each other?

- Are you testing my memory right now? After you saved my life, picked me up from the battlefield and fed me for just a few moments before I went into a coma?

- I'm not kidding, I asked very seriously. If your overloaded stomach allows you to think about such things.

I still find it funny but I answer him seriously, I try not to laugh:

- We've known each other for two months and four days. The computer in my head is not affected by the stomach.

- Okay, you know. I mean, that's how you calculated.

- What does that mean, I calculated? We have known each other exactly since the day I had a very important conference at Bank Leumi with some partners, well, whom I have known for many years. And I was in a hurry to catch a bus and you took me by elevator to the 10th floor and Pufi jumped to bite me.

- Nope, she greeted you politely and said Shallom in her language. You admitted that she was a well-educated girl, by me, of course.

- Perfect, that's when I met you two, and today all three of us are friends. So far everything has been clarified. I just didn't understand the point of your question. Ari looked at me for
a moment in silence. I am waiting to hear: "Do not hurry to answer," he said.

- I wanted to see if you recognized me, if anything brought back any memories of me.

- Seriously? Please continue!

- It's a long story, I don't know if that's the case now.

- It's okay, go on! Maybe in the meantime I'll eat something and I'll listen to you.

- You won't eat anything else, even if the hospital is very close to where we are. I won't let you eat until you get sick. Notice that I don't order dessert either; in no case one can you live the way you live. Tell me right, how many times a week do you come home as tired and hungry as you are today? And how long have you been living like this?

- You're probably right. That's how I've lived since I can remember. Ever since a terrorist attack kidnapped my husband, and I was eight months pregnant with Dani. That's when my normal life ended. Then I entered the track and did not go down. At first I ran unknowingly to forget. After that I needed money, more and more money, as the child grew. I had to offer everything that is offered to a boy in a normal family. I hope that I managed to do it in such a way that he does not suffer shortcomings, that he is not inferior to his colleagues, that he does not feel less that he does not have a father. I mean, I was a mother, a father, a friend, a tutor. And most of all, I tried to be good at work, to promote. Otherwise I would not have been able to support myself and earn the money I needed.

- And your colleagues said that you are a predator, a careerist and you step on corpses just to get up?

- Exactly! How do you know? But I really didn't care what my colleagues thought. I didn't even share anything about myself with anyone. I never enjoyed a personal life, I never allowed myself a joy. Instead, I succeeded professionally and raised my child properly.

- And what was the price?

- Who else is talking about price? Do you know why I became a viper and a shrew? To remove the married wolf pack who were lurking around the young and lonely widow. Now you got it?

- But you never thought about yourself, a little happiness for yourself personally?

- My dear, there isn’t some little happiness and by no means for me. What does little mean? An hour a week or once a month? Happiness you either have it or avoids you your whole life. That's all. It didn't come to me, and now I don't regret it.

- Maybe it's never too late?

We were silent for minutes, until the waiter gathered all the meat from the plate in a nice package for the Pufi. According to Ari, tomorrow will be a national holiday for her. When we were left alone, we continued, seemingly unrelated to what had been said before:

- I used to be a smoker. You know what it's like in college, they learn from each other. I smoked for many years, until it stopped me suddenly: asthmatic bronchitis. Well, after about two or three years I dreamed every night that I take a cigarette out of the pack, I try to light it, but the match breaks and I repeat the operation with a lighter that doesn't light up and so I was always tormented by the same desire to smoke. After the dream appeared less and less until it disappeared altogether. So everything can be forgotten, even love. You wanted to ask me about that, didn't you? Well, no, it was never anything but work and petty ambitions without satisfaction. I don't care what people around me thought of me. Especially today, when all the trains have already passed.

- I thought you were more optimistic. There's always a train waiting somewhere that starts at 4 o'clock in the morning.

- Yes, yes, the one who takes commuters to work. Let's leave it at that. Better explain to me why you asked me before when we met?

- You answered me, two months ago...

- No, you mentioned something that I should have recognized you if I had any memories of you. Honestly, I don't know what you're talking about.

- Yes, I imagined. You see, we somehow have something in common in our past. Not to go back to the whole story, I raised my son alone, as well. Only my wife is well-off in America, married, with a fat bank account, but that never bothered me. When my son, Uri, left me, he was 5 years old.

It was a short study trip. He took me out of college - I started medicine, to work as a man to support my family. She meanwhile graduated from the Faculty of Economics and went to America for a doctorate. A year later, she told me that she was divorcing and that she was leaving my child with me so that I would not feel alone.

- God, how did you do it, man?

- As you can see, fine. I mean, it was really hard, but I got it done.

- And the child, how did you raise the child?

- We both lived modestly, but nicely! I gave him to school at the age of 6 and he went normally; I put a key around his neck. At night I cooked and did the laundry. He also learned to heat his soup, to make a schnitzel in the oven, to make his homework. Sometimes he would wait for me in the evening to talk a little. On holidays, we both went for a walk, a movie or a game. We got along perfectly. When he grew up a little, at the age of 9, he also took over some activities in the house

- But his mother did not come to see him, to take him for a while?

- She sent him greeting cards and gifts for holidays or birthdays. She also sent him postcards of the beautiful places she traveled to.

- And all the years she never asked him for a holiday?

- Not. That was the initial condition. If the baby stays with me, then she will never take him, not even for a day. Unless she comes to the country, I will allow her to meet him for a few hours and only in my presence. But she didn't come.

- And how did you manage financially?"

- I worked full time in the morning, after work overtime. In the evening and at night I tried to study a little more, because I always hoped to return to studies. The two years I had done in Medicine helped me when I started all over again in veterinary medicine. By then the boy was already 13 years old and he was waiting for me with the cooked food or he was doing the laundry for both of us!

- You had it harder than me! Very hard!

I stroked his hand resting on the table beside me. He turned it upside down, grabbed my hand, and brought it to his face, pressing his cheek against it for a long time. Then he continued.

- It was from that period that our acquaintance began. I mean, I saw you, every afternoon, when I was working part-time at the telephone exchange. I was extensions for you and I unwittingly realized that they were all business calls. You never had an intimate conversation, a man never called for you.

- You mean you listened to my conversations?

- God forbid, no! It would be like reading a foreign letter. But who is looking for you, introduces himself, is usually said, "this is X talking from the x-bank", or "Mrs. Bergman, external conversation with London", like that, right?

I liked the moment you picked up the phone and I could hear your warm, pleasant voice like a little girl's. Your voice hasn't changed at all.

- The voice no, but the rest?

- We all change, time takes its toll. Only I see you as you were then, when you flew like today, like a butterfly, that you never walked with a normal step of a quiet man. To me, you're the same person I sighed for three years in a row.

- And you never talked to me? Why didn't I see you, where were you hiding?

- I was at the phone exchange only in the evening, when only the bosses worked overtime, meetings, etc. How could I approach you? I was happy when you needed a connection. Then you called me and addressed me very politely, even respectfully. I remember that you once addressed me with a personal problem and I was excited all week. You called me around 6 o'clock in the evening, when there was almost no one but a few people in the meeting room. I remembered your every word. I was just studying for the exams and I was startled when the direction line rang and I just gasped when I heard your voice.

- Mr. from the exchange, I'm sorry I don't know your name, Yael Bergman speaking and I have a special request.

- I'm here at your disposal, Mrs. Bergman, what can I do for you? And my name is Ari Braun, I only work in the evening.

- Yes, I know, it's been Dina all day. Please do something for me. I'm in a meeting and I can't move from here. It will take longer, but I have a sick child at home. Please call him from time to time, I’ll give you the number, and ask him how he is feeling and if he has any special problems. Tell him ima will be home by 8 o'clock. Yes? Please, in case you feel that something is wrong, slip a note for me in the meeting room, but in no case do not call! Thank you!

- God, that was you? And do you remember everything, even word for word?

- Why not? I was terribly in love ..., from a distance... And my friend, who helped me take this evening job, warned me not to approach you, that you were a bit of a viper, etc. He told me that if I dared even the slightest closeness to you, you would take care to fire me, and much more. So I didn't dare, but don't think I'm a coward, or that I couldn't work elsewhere. Honestly, I felt that I was not the man who could reach your level, I was not the one who deserved you. So I preferred to dream of you for another 16 years.

- You're crazy! Why didn't you look for me when I was so alone and needed a real and sincere man? And who is the bastard friend who took that chance from us? Some years of happiness! I want to know, tell me now!

- Honey, I promised to keep it a secret. And besides, he redeemed his guilt. I looked for him not long ago, I told him that I intended to move to Tel Aviv and I needed a temporary and then stable housing. In short, I also asked him for information about you. He laughed at me. He told me: "Haven't you forgotten her yet?" I remember you as a normal boy.” "I studied medicine, not you," I replied, "so let me appreciate the limits of normalcy. I want you to give me all the information to help me find her.”

- Well, what information do you want? She's still a shrew. She perched on the hierarchy a step away from me. She's still single, because the man who was brave enough to take one like her wasn't born. Even her son left her, he was tired of her. Something else? I'll give you the address on the phone tomorrow.”

- So that's Ben David’s opinion of me. Perfect, at least he's honest. Everything he said to you he told in front of me. And I'm not upset either. Both he and I know the same thing, which is that I will soon be sitting in his chair. That's why he crossed with me, he's afraid of me. It's just that I forgive him, rivalry is normal. Instead, I will not forgive him for taking you away from me when you wanted me.

- Yaeli, he helped me find you and I want you now as well as then.

I feel something in my eyes stinging me hard. But I have an obligation to answer. Our conversation started pleasantly, jokingly, and now it is nearing a serious and final end.

- Ari, my dear, I think what I have heard now is the most precious thing that has happened to me in the last thirty years. I find out now so late that a man like you paid attention to me. If I had known then, maybe our lives, yours and mine, would have looked different, much better. None of us deserved to waste our lives.

- You are right. So much pity for all these years. But we still found ourselves, we're both here together. We are free and masters of our fate. My friend calls you a viper and a shrew out of envy and jealousy. But I know you as you really are; I love this Yaeli.

I want to cry again, but I'm still holding on. I lift my glasses to the top of my head and turn my bare face and wet eyes back to him. I ask him:

- Look at me and tell me honestly, what do you see?

He looks at me carefully, wiping the corner of my eye from which a tear starts.

- I see a beautiful woman. I see the face I've been dreaming of for years. What do you think is more to see besides love? I also see beautiful eyes that convey some feelings to me. Correct?

- I don't know, Ari, I don't know. You may not realize it yet, but you see a woman who is not young and tired. How long will it be before you understand the truth; no confusion there: I'm Yael Bergman and by no means Ingrid Bergman. I get up abruptly and push the chair.

- We're going home, Ari. We'll talk tomorrow. In sunlight, things are perceived differently.

And we left. It was past midnight. I went into my house and Ari went up to take the dog for the night walk. Because the package of meat remained with me, I put it at hand on the kitchen table and left the door unlocked. Meanwhile I arranged the bed for the night hoping to catch a few hours of sleep. At one point I heard the front door open. I was almost done with the arrangements when Pufulet jumped in the bed from the bedroom door and there in my arms. She started licking my face and I struggled to escape screaming for help. Ari appeared in the doorway, and I shouted: Get her out of here, get her off me! I don't know how he managed to be so skillful that in a split second Pufi she was removed and taken out of the room. At the same moment, instead of the dog, I felt the pressure of a strong man's chest on my chest, I was chained by two arms as in a pair of pliers and a rain of kisses overwhelmed me to the point of suffocation. I didn't have time to fight or protest, nor could I protest because my mouth was always covered by his mouth, which was becoming more and more insistent and greedy. Although taken by surprise, I quickly adjusted to the situation and let myself be docile at the will of feelings and senses. It was getting better and better, I forgot about the past hour and the unlocked doors; I was in a trance when we both fell chained to the bed made just for me. And after that, there was nothing but a drunkenness of colors and sounds, the symphonies unwritten and unheard by anyone until now, except the two of us.

Eventually, as our heartbeat subsided, the kisses became more loving, more pressing, and I
perceived a persistent whisper as a rhetorical question:

- Have we both been to paradise? Is that what paradise looks like?

I had no idea what paradise should look like, I preferred to answer only through silent and prolonged kisses. And only when I woke up did I understand how warm and good I was and how many years I missed this moment. I looked at the handsome man who was sleeping close to me, with his head on my shoulder, and I understood that he alone was my only paradise. And there will be no other. After a while I tried to get out of the grip, to get out of bed, but at the same moment I felt pulled back and immobilized, this time with my head under his shoulder, where my natural height was next to him, and the best place in the world. That's how I fell asleep until I felt the first rays of the sun piercing my eyelids, along with some gentle kisses that moved from one eye to another.

We parted for the rest of the day, because life had to go on. We both shone with inner fulfillment and the hope of reunion.

- See you tonight!

- See you tonight!

- What can I bring you?

- Only you!

That's all, only you. I rushed into the elevator and saw Iulia Bergman the beautiful, young woman, radiating happiness. I wonder: Who was the idiot who decided that love belongs only to the young? Who has the right to decide the age limit for love? Come here, see with me together with the image in the mirror!

I jumped in a taxi as clean and elegant as a limousine. I put my head on the window and let myself be warmed and bathed in the melted gold of the morning sun. I closed my eyes humming a Schubert lied for me, then continued with the serenade, whispering the words: Leise flihen meine Lieder, durch die Nacht zu dir… I didn't realize the car had stopped, and the driver warned me that I have to get out of it. When I paid him, he said to me with a smile: Ma'am, you're either very sad or very happy. Anyway, I really liked your song. Maybe I'll take you to work tomorrow, I'd love to. I didn't hire him for the next day, but I smiled gratefully at him.

At work, the day started well, namely urgent matters, two meetings before noon and a fax announcing the arrival of the audit commission. I mean, everything is OK nothing unusual, with I'm used to these days. I would not have been bothered by any urgent summons to the Ministry or a police investigation. Anything can be solved when you have that mood that I had, that desire to float or to fly and to live every moment movement, every breath from last night. I was totally absent to those around me, I was just smiling at everyone, being completely immersed in the depths of the ocean inside me.

The phone woke me up ringing loud and long. I only picked him up the moment I realized Ari might be looking for me. But it was the secretary's voice:

- Yael, on line 3 your son has been waiting for you for a few minutes. Do you want to answer? He asked for you twice yesterday.

I remembered, of course Dani was looking for me yesterday

- Hello, son, hi, how are you?

- Hi Ima, I've been looking for you for two days, why didn’t you answer me?

- I was at the meeting yesterday, otherwise what do you want to happen? It's all OK with me. But what happened, do you have a problem? Come on, talk, what is it about?

- Well, we have to meet without delay. Today, please, ima, it's important.

I'm suddenly anxious. Dani never insists so much.

- And you can't tell me on the phone, do we have to meet?

- Yes, of course. Look, I called you a few times during the night. You didn't answer, otherwise I would have come to you right at midnight. What's going on, where have you been?

I immediately decide to tell him the truth. I don't usually lie to my child under any circumstances.

- Danut, I was nowhere but in my bedroom.

- And you may not have heard the phone call? Repeatedly?

- Honey, I as at home in the bedroom. Look, I don't want to shock you, we're both mature people and there are no secrets between us. I wasn't alone last night.

- How come you weren't alone?

- Just like that, I wasn't alone, don't you understand? I have a friend, I was with him … it's so hard to imagine something like that?

- Ima, you never… but anyway, it's none of my business, good. Yes, I'm fine.

- Mommy, my dear, many years ago we urged you to rebuild your life.

- Everything is fine now! Right now I've met the right man I want. Now say everything you have to say about this issue and we end the discussion.

- Ima, I have nothing to say, if you're all right, I'm glad and I'm done. But still we have to talk today about something very important. And personally.

- Okay Dani. We meet for lunch and eat together. Dizengof Center, floor 1 minus, next to the cinema. It is a small restaurant with light food. We'll have lunch there together at 2 p.m. Okay?

OK maybe he is upset with his girlfriend and he's in trouble! Or does he need money for something urgent? Well, it's not long until the appointed time and I will find out.

We met at the appointed time, arriving both at the same time. My baby learned a few good things from me, including being punctual and not lying. There have always been relationships of mutual sincerity between the two of us, which is why I told him everything about what happened last night. Of course without details, which I never demanded from him either, although I was always up to date with all his love affairs. This baby of mine is 27 years old and is a handsome man, taking after my deceased husband, with whom I was unfortunately married for only six months. I became strong the moment Dani the elder died and left me in charge of the family, raising the
child, earning a living. In this way I transformed into a woman-man fighter, shrew, viper and whatever. I had to break through for the sake of little Dani. If I had met a man like Ari Braun then, we would have united our troubles and loneliness, and our whole life would have been different. But I met this man so late, so late, that it was almost too late. I want to try to explain all this to my boy, so that he understands that I still have the right to catch the last train in this dry life of mine. It is very important to me that he understands me and is reconciled to the situation itself. After that, I am convinced that he will like Ari, even if only for my sake the two will become friends.

I look with love and pride at my boy, tall and straight as a fir tree, I look at his tanned face, surrounded by a mane of black and curly hair and in contrast to this whole, two green eyes, bright and intelligent. My son, Dani Bergman, a doctoral student in microbiology at the Weitzman Institute, through his merit and ability, but also through my intense work for the last 30 years. I look him in the eye, my heart grows with joy and admiration and I wait for him to start the conversation. I'm sure the first questions will be about my friend, but I'm wrong. Dani makes no reference to any friend. I see him a little embarrassed, then he lets go:

- Tell me, imale, why did you forget that you did some tests for more than a month ago, on the recommendation of my friend, Dr. Segal?

- Well, how can I forget? You asked me to visit him and I went, he gave me a list of tests and x-rays to do and I did them all. Do you think it was easy for me to free myself two days in a row for that? You know just how busy I am!

- Okay, honey, did you do everything and throw it away? Did you get the results? Where are they, what did you do with them?

- Hey, don't get mad, I have the results, at home somewhere. I'll find time and I'll schedule an appointment with your friend again; what's wrong with you, where does it burn?

- Well, here's the problem, it's burning right at you. In short, Segal received the copies after the results and today at 6 o'clock he will see us both.

- Dani, wait a minute, explain to me what's the matter with this rush? Is something happening that I don't know?

- We'll go to him and he'll explain everything to you.

- Until then, you explain to me! Now! You are competent, you understood the situation perfectly, and I am not a coward. So I want to hear!

There are a few moments of silence. I see my Dani struggling to put his words together, and I begin to understand that this is something serious.

Finally, he spoke:

- Mommy, we're both big kids, so I’ll try not to spare you. I will try to tell you everything I know, and with the doctors we will determine what needs to be done in the coming days and weeks to…

- For what, to die a little later?

- Well no, be nice ima. It's not about death here. A lump was found in your right breast. That's it, I told you. Segal says that the lump needs to be urgently removed by a small operation, a biopsy is done and that's it. Maybe a little treatment after that, some drugs, anyway nowadays it is known of an increasing percentage of healings. Please don't panic. You will see that it will work out for the better. I’ll take care of you, I won't let anything bad happen to you. Imale, look at me, why are you looking up? You are the bravest woman in the world, you gave birth to me, I know you as myself. You just don't be scared of that much!

I keep looking at the tablecloth and I can't lift my hands. I mean, I don't want the boy to see my fingers shaking and I'm not able to lift the glass of mineral water down to drink it.

Strange thing, I was not scared of the operation that awaits me. From the first moment Dani started talking, I was just thinking about Ari. What am I going to tell him, how am I going to tell him? We were both so happy just a few hours ago!

- My God, why did you strike me today? Why not a year ago, why not last month? Is that all I deserve, one night for a lifetime?

But he, is he to blame for being thrown so brutally only a few hours after he got what he wanted so much? He is so gentle, so good, why does he deserve it?

Dani looks at me in silence, then gets up a little and manages to kiss me on the forehead and then on the cheek.

- Ima, stop this sinister figure. No one died and will not die. Wake up and get back to your senses, please!

And then I let go. I looked straight into his eyes and saw a precious and close friend. In ten minutes I told him everything about Ari Braun: how he saw and loved me many years ago without me knowing, then how he found me with the help of information received from Ben David, how he moved in our block and conquered me with patience and gentleness. I told him everything about our last night, that is, the only night, like a concentrated pill of love that we could have enjoyed for almost 20 years, but wasted due to the wickedness of a man. Or so we were destined.

- Tell me now what to do, Danut? I'm thinking of him. Will he be waiting for me tonight? If I don't come at 6 o'clock, he will wait until 12 o'clock, until morning. You understand, I asked what exactly this man saw in me, why does he love me so much? I'm four years older than him. Sure, he's known me since I was much younger. I probably became an obsession with him. He is constant and stubborn, he is gentle and kind and loving. Do you understand why it has become such a big temptation for me? Last night I realized that I love him, we both lived too long alone and we need each other.

Dani listened to me carefully and looked at me all the time as if he were seeing me for the first time in my life. Naturally, I tell myself, he met a mother and now he finally knows the woman who lives in this mother. On the other hand, today I am not talking to the "little flower boy", but to a man- friend from whom I expect advice.

- Listen, ima, I think we need to hear first what the doctors say about your situation. For now, there is no need to alarm Ari, but neither should you leave him. You told me too many beautiful things about him, now I'm sorry for his and your unhappiness. It just hurts for you two. But let's not hurry. Time brings solutions.

We stopped here with the whole discussion. I understood that in the end I and only I will be the one to make the decision.

At 6 o'clock, Dr. Segal confirmed everything Dani had said. Moreover, he made an appointment for the next day to hospitalize me about two days for tests and then surgery for excision biopsy of the nodule. I mean, everything had been arranged for a few days, so Dani was desperately looking for me. It just so happened that I found out at the last minute.

I went home to gather some things, not yet knowing how to deal with Ari. By no means did I want to feel humiliated by his presence in the hospital. All sorts of thoughts crossed my mind. For example, he is too good to retire after what happened between us, although he has no obligation. I have never been able to offer him anything, ever, to drag him after me in trouble of illness and old age. And I don't even want him to see me mutilated after the surgery and tied with
various threads to the infusion devices. I better die right away. What should I do, great God, at least if this trouble had come a day earlier, before I had said to him: "Dear, I love you!" Or not to have heard his whisper: We were both in paradise. How easy it would have been then to leave for a month in the interest of work, greeting him only with a raise of the left hand. But God heard my prayer. When I entered the house, I found a note on the table: My dear, I'm sorry, I 'm sorry I can't be home with you tonight. I have three emergencies, which will no doubt keep me awake until morning. Go to bed and dream about last night and many, many more that will be in the future. And rest well! I kiss you sweetly on the beautiful eyes!

I sat for a long time with the note in my hand, read it and reread it, and my tears burned.

Eventually I pulled out a piece of paper and replied: My dear I have to go for a longer period. I don't know when I'll be back either. I need to be with my son where some trouble has arisen. I mean, really, big trouble. I will think of the night I spent with you as my most precious asset. For you it was paradise - or even for both of us - and for me it was the wonderful dream of a summer night. I want you to believe that everything that happened on my part was sincere and true. The only moment of happiness that life gave me. But just because I love you the way I love you, I can't drag you after my troubles. For a moment I thought that I too could receive something good from life, and you are all that can be better, but it was just an illusion, born of desire. I'm trying to believe that you really deserve a young, beautiful and good woman, with whom to start over. You have many years ahead of you. Although it's painful for me, I wish it with all my heart. Because you are very, very dear to me.

Yael

P.S. And a kiss on the brown ears and the white muzzle.

I put the letter in an envelope and quickly decided to put it in his mailbox. I didn't want to reread it or send it tomorrow so I wouldn't change my mind.

The next day it all started according to schedule. In spite of Ben David, I went on extended medical leave. At the hospital, it turned out that at least half of the staff were my son's friends. I went through hard times, but they were all very good to me. And I was a model patient. That is, I listened to everyone and carried out the orders, I heroically endured the difficult moments when needles were inserted into my chest for tests and then once again an hour before the surgery to indicate the location of the nodule. In fact, it turned out to be two. After the surgery I went to a hotel for recovery, and when I returned I found out the results of the tests. In conclusion, I stayed in the hospital for another three weeks for treatment. About this period, I don’t want to remember any details.

Dani was by my side all the time. He moved home so he could come to the hospital every day, sometimes twice. I asked him to go back to Iavne already, not to waste so much time with me, but he did not listen to me. He said that he brought his things home, that is, to Tel Aviv, to his childhood room, and he studied quietly in the evening and at night without being disturbed.

Towards the end of the period I went out for a walk in the hospital garden every day and I felt better and better. Dani came every day to stay with me after treatment. After that I was doing very well on my own. On the last day, it was decided that the treatment would be done in the morning, and to be around 2 o'clock I would be released from the hospital. Finally, I was happy to regain my freedom. Of course, I had to take some medication and go to the check-up periodically. I was most glad that in ten days I could resume my work, even if it was only for four hours at first. I talked about all this with Dani and made different plans on how to organize my life in the first period after going out into the world.

One of the last days, when I was sitting on a bench in the garden, Dani suddenly asked me:

- Ima, did you know that your friend Ari Braun raised his son alone after his wife left him?

I winced sharply, as if suddenly awakened from a sleep from which I was trying not to detach myself.

- But how do you know, did you talk to him, did you tell him anything about me?

- No, dear, but the world is very small. Imagine that my friend Segal has known him for many years, from some special courses. I mean, Braun started with general medicine first, he could have been an excellent surgeon too. When they met, Segal was a young medical student, and Braun was the oldest in the group. Everyone knew that he had a child that he raised with many sacrifices after his wife fled to America. Then came a crisis in his life. That is, the boy had grown up and apparently everything was already arranged, in the sense that his studies were going well, in parallel with about two jobs from which he got his necessities for existence and college fees. But when the boy turned 16, the wife appeared and convinced the child to go with her to America. She lured him with a lot of money, with which she could afford to keep him at a good university in New York, or wherever he wanted. When Ari had a discussion with the boy, he would have said something to her in the sense that although he loves his father that he is aware that he also has a mother who offers him a unique chance to study in America. And the father could barely make ends meet. That being said, he did not object, he insisted out of stupid pride to buy the plane ticket for the boy from his money (hard worked anyway) and that was it, the man was left alone.

I listen, seemingly absent, but when Dani stopped I urged him to continue:

- That's all you know, nothing more? So far I knew, more or less.

- Well, Segal says that since then he has disappeared from classes, but he found out from a colleague that the man had a heart attack and went through a rather difficult operation on an open heart, and after about 2-3 years resumed his studies in veterinary medicine. Segal met him once and joked about him. He asked him why he had left people in favor of cows and puppies, and
he replied:

- Cows and puppies respond with love when you heal them, which I can't say about humans.

Dani probably threw this story at me with no intention, but it opened a wound in me that wasn't closed yet, and as I prepared to return home I was again preoccupied with the thought of how I would meet my eyes. he. And because Dani woke up my memories, I repeated all the moments of the last night again and again and a thought came to me that I actually knew something about the surgery in question. As I responded to the flood of kisses on the only night, I encountered a roughness that stretched from the neck to the chest, like a scar, I kissed it several times, not knowing what it was. I intended to ask later, but I didn't get it because there was no one for us later.

And so I came to the last day: I packed my bags, and at 9 o'clock I went to the ray treatment. Last one, thank God! At half past nine I went out into the garden and sat down on the usual bench, waiting for my son. I was a little dizzy, as usual, but I knew it would take me about an hour, and Dani would take care of the release sheets and prescriptions. So I sat quietly on the bench, rocked by the daily dizziness that no longer bothered me, knowing that it would leave me soon.

If Dani hadn't been late, I would have sent him for a drink. Only I was alone and I still didn't have the courage to get up, the whole yard was spinning with me. So I'd rather not get up or shake my head. I was looking at the toe of my shoe and waiting for this demented dance to subside.

Suddenly a steaming, fresh bottle of Diet Cola pops up in front of my eyes and I am convinced that Dani has finally come. I don't raise my head, I'm still not sure about it, but I take the bottle gratefully and cool my hand on its cold and damp surface. And I hear a calm and gentle voice:

- I thought we'd have a Coke together. Are you dizzy?

At the risk of swaying, I raise my head and my gaze clears. Ari sits next to me and urges me to drink. I listen to him, drink the cold liquid and become more and more aware that I see well and I really like what I see. It's him, my dear, my boyfriend, my friend. Calm as usual he puts aside his bottle, approaches, pulls me towards him, sticks me to his chest and I put his head on my shoulder while the tears dripping quietly, without sobs. I feel like I've lost a heavy weight of tens of tons that has been pressing on me for a long time. And his arm gathers me to him and carries away the pain that crushes my heart. Eventually I ask him:

- Are we waiting for my son?

- No, he won't come today. He left for Rehovot.

- But he didn't tell me!

- He asked me to let you know and bring you home.

- I thought you would never come again!

- Maybe I would never have come if you hadn't made the mistake of writing to me that you loved me.

- So what?

- Well, don't you understand? How was I going to leave you from the moment I knew you loved me? So I found Dani, I heard all the news about you from him every night, and today he allowed me to come in his place.

- You mean Dani and you?

- Yes, Dani and I are friends. He's a wonderful boy, he kept my spirits up all the time. Otherwise I would have rushed here a long time ago.

- You mean you're not mad at me?

- I'm not upset, but I have one condition: never to disappear again. Were you afraid to drag me out of your troubles? You should know that troubles are much easier when you share them in two. Clear? And all that will be in the years to come. We are going home!

- My luggage and release letter…

- The luggage is already in the car. The letter is being prepared by Dr. Segal, and I'll take it tomorrow.

- Well then. Where is your car, do you bring it here?

- Not. The car is parked on the parallel street, we have only 10 minutes to go.

- So far? Couldn't you?

- No, it couldn't be. Take my arm and start. I lead you. Trust me, you are with me!

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

Chapter II
LIFE IN TWO

 

 

He parked the car in the huge courtyard behind the block, used by all the neighbors around him. On the first two steps I was a little insecure, I still didn't trust my strength; it was as if I had been released into deep water, and I had to swim hard if I wanted to reach shore. The hospital garden was a warm greenhouse for me that I was already used to. However, the real space where you see and hear the buses on the motorway confused me for a moment, I was dizzy. Ari sat behind me watching me do without support. I recovered pretty quickly and ... I set off. Directly to the entrance of my block. Two more steps and ready, I was sitting in front of the elevator. I let go a bit on my back, and here was my defensive wall, the chest strong enough to support me in the first moment of weakness. That was good for me. I could walk with my eyes closed; I could always feel his presence. Two surprises were waiting for me in my apartment. At first Pufuleț overwhelmed me with a lot of wet kisses and silky caresses, from which I was saved only due to Ari 's quickness. Only then did I manage to notice the crystal vase in the middle of the table full of a huge bouquet of red and white roses. They were wonderful flowers, more buds about to turn into roses. I glanced warmly at the man next to me.

- Flowers are the most beautiful gift for me, I say. After I wash my face, you will receive as many kisses as are in this vase.

I did not finish saying these words that I was immediately seized between the tongs of two strong arms, receiving all the kisses on the still sticky face; and during this time I came up with a crazy idea that made me laugh, interrupting the flood of kisses. Then, as we sat down on the couch, I explained to Ari my misbehavior: still embarrassed that I hadn't been able to clean myself of the moisture of Pufi's tongue, I decided to ask Ari how he was doing when a cow satisfied with the services of the veterinarian, licks him with its long and muddy tongue in gratitude. Only this caused us both a loud and prolonged laugh. On this occasion I found out that cows are not as affectionate as puppies.

I still had enough time to get used to my own home, first of all with my house work: I washed all the things used in the hospital, I bathed myself, I checked the fridge, to make a list for Ari to go shopping. I found the big surprise inside a fairy lit fridge by my dear boy. Before he left, he made sure to buy me all the goodies, which were to last me at least all week.

In the evening we had enough time to discuss important issues. So Ari 's lease for his 10th floor apartment expired, and the landlord did not agree to extend it for another year. Which was useless because at most in a month, if not sooner, the new house will be ready for handing over the keys. So Ari will move his three suitcases to my place tomorrow for this short time. It seemed like a logical solution to me. So far, he has brought only a few strictly necessary things and Pufuleț, together with her crib. By the end of the week, he would hand over the apartment, clean and with the furniture intact.

We slept together on my big bed. I didn't have a guest bedroom or a couch that a man the height of Ari could rest on. I slept well after so long in my bed. Only in the few moments when I was moving, being between sleep and wakefulness, I feet Ari startle “trying on the other side of the bed to see in the dark if I was feeling well. I told him in the morning that I was asking him to calm down, otherwise I would move him to the living room next to Pufi. I'm used to being alone for a lifetime, to deal with all the problems, so the fact that he will get up tired because of me does not help me at all, on the contrary, it creates rebukes of conscience. Didn't he just tell me yesterday that I was healthy, ready, and now I was healed? I need to know if I am still ill and he came to look after me, or I recovered and are ready to continue to live.

Ari stroked my head and cheeks and was silent for a long time. Obviously I knew the answer: I'm fine until next time. This disease returns, but no one knows when: in a year, maybe in five or ten. After a long silence came the answer:

- My dear, you are healthy today. Today I want us to enjoy our lives together. Together. Tomorrow can mean any time, any day that is not worth thinking about. So do I, with my heart problem. Beats, beats and at some point, I have no idea when and why, will stop. Until then ... we will enjoy every day lived happily. Maybe even twenty years, who knows?

- Perfect, I see I understand you, I say. Let's decide what to do today: I'll cook for lunch. Wait, I don't need help, it's another matter for you. After drinking the first coffee to start the day on the "right" you will go up to the 10th floor, where you have a lot of work to do. First you pack all your personal things in suitcases, and you bring them here in the small room. Next to the piano. I also have empty suitcases in case you need them. I can help you with this, if you want.

- You planned our activity very well for today. At least I would like to realize at least part of this plan. I'll put on some work clothes and I'll go up right away. Call me when you want to have lunch. I can continue after lunch.

- Ari, don't get tired, it’s not the end of days. You have a few more days until the apartment is handed over.

- I won’t get tired of a little cleaning. I want to finish this; we still have a lot to do. Important work is just beginning. So I'm ready to "fight" - I'm gone; we talk on the phone ...

So I was left alone, me with my kitchen and the pots unused for a long time. Before making the lunch menu, I called Dani. He didn't answer, it was the wrong time. But I left a message for him to know I'm home and I'm fine. For the next two hours I cooked. Eggplant baked over high heat, sprinkled with olive oil and covered with green onions and grated cheese; this as an appetizer. Then a potato salad with mayonnaise and a chicken roasted in the oven. I also managed a dessert: apples boiled with cinnamon, vanilla and silane instead of sugar. I didn't forget that I made this dessert in the past, Dani liked it, but cold. After I arranged them on a flat plate the apples cooled in only

10 minutes in the freezer. I was very proud of myself. After such a long break, I never forgot to be a housewife. If I had someone for ...

At 1 p.m., I called Ari.

- Are you redecorating the apartment in the hope of being praised by the owner of the house? What are you doing so much there?

- Ohoo, there’s so much more to do! But let me tell you, I'm starving.

- Then come down from the heights and let me feed you. I’ll find something for your hunger.

- I'll come in a moment.

Ari was surprised to see all the dishes beautifully arranged on the living room table. We sat face to face, and I put on the plate the portion due to the owner of the house who had returned from work. Then I served myself. Then I saw in his eyes that gleam and that special look with which he looked at me that evening when he found me alone waiting
for Dani, or when he found me on the street at night scared and starving, and then he fed me at the Romanian restaurant. Now I was no longer embarrassed by this look because now I understand it: it starts from a beautiful feeling. I just asked him "to get over an embarrassing moment:

- Do you like the food? Enjoy! Eat everything, I made it for you!

Ari was silent for a moment with his eyes on the plate. Then he began to eat and spoke only after swallowing his last mouthful:

- I liked everything, it was tasty, it had a divine taste, and I can't find other words. But the fact that you cooked this lunch for me ... matters a lot more. I don't remember anything like this ever happening to me, being served by my hand of a beloved woman, who mixed love with food destined for me.

I felt his emotion and I also knew that a word was needed to interrupt this moment. I don't want to create pathetic situations that move him and ruin his health. Although he managed to excite me too. At that moment I created my own mathematical formula: 1 unhappiness plus 1 unhappiness is equal to one lasting and true happiness. I jumped to my feet, jokingly saying:

- You have no idea what housewife you found! Now look at what follows: tra ... la la la, DESERT!

I put the plate of well-chilled apples on the table, shining from the silane sweetness that gave them a caramelized look.

- When did you manage to do all this?

- Well, I had enough time while you rebuilt the owner's apartment. You got on with it and you didn't feel the passage of time.

- Do you think I’m done? It's going to take me a few more days. I want to hand over the house as I received it. But I also pack my personal things put in suitcases. Until tonight, I'll take down two suitcases. I’ll do the rest tomorrow. I won't even unpack them, there's no point in starting over in two weeks when we move into the new house for good.

- Therefore, I am also a part of your new life! And that was premeditated?, I'm kidding.

After a prolonged silence, I heard in astonishment an embarrassed answer, even shy, a single word whispered: yes! Later he continued louder, faster, as though it meant: I'll tell you everything you want to know, but short and not ask once if instead of intent to use the word "hope" or obsession. I couldn't convince myself that I would never see you again. The fact that 10 years ago I paid an advance for a non-yet conceived construction, brought me hope that I will return to Tel Aviv to be somewhere close enough to see
sometimes. Although I knew it would take a long time for the building to become my property, I felt that I had taken the first step that brought me closer to you. From that moment on, I started to feel better, to be more optimistic, to be in a better mood. I think it got me out of depression; that is, I already had a purpose, I had something to think about every night, a hope shone for me. I'm done with this topic!

- Okay, let me move on to the next question: what do you want us to do with
my apartment? It's been paid for, so it's mine.

- Nothing! You leave it like that, intact. It's Dani's inheritance, isn't it? What if he ever wants to live in this house after he gets married? You will decide, you have lived here for decades, it is your home. I would like you to get used to the new house, to feel good, to be happy there. Find out that the part that will become our home will be handed over to us ready furnished, and the adjacent building will be empty, except for two bedrooms upstairs - for Uri (or Ori, meaning “my light), when he visits us. The rest, the office, the surgery room and the patient recovery room are empty and waiting for me to personally take care of all the necessities. Only I have to buy the furniture, the medical instruments and everything that belongs in a medical office. I told you all this because I want you to be calm; everything is waiting for you ready.

Or, this is exactly what I was not satisfied with: I am not used to receiving everything ready, without working for it. This time I was silent, so as not to offend Ari, so as not to spoil his joy. I needed time. To think, how to contribute to this unexpected luxury without upsetting this wonderful man next to me. I'm starting to feel exactly like Cinderella waking up a princess overnight. But in our time miracles are not born of a nice dream, but you have to work hard to get them. And here one thought brings another, and I immediately realize how many years I worked without holidays, without moments of rest, and I allowed myself nothing but what was strictly necessary for myself. Therefore, I have to check with my bank how much is locked in the savings account,
and after that I will know how much I can contribute to Ari 's office. I didn't tell him about this plan. Later, as we sat quietly over coffee waiting for the news bulletin, I threw a question in passing, without looking curious and without the intention of starting a discussion again:

- I wonder how many years it takes someone to save to buy two apartments at once. They 're probably terribly expensive.

- Maybe today they are sold at a huge price, but don't forget that I signed the contract 10 years ago, at the price from that period, like a blind man. Or rather, I took “the cat in the bag". I was almost convinced that I was throwing money out the window because I had advanced a large sum for something that did not yet take place, form, or a start date. Neither plots of land, nor the first brick, there may not be a building permit from the City Hall yet. Instead, I had the time, patience, and straw to cling to. Plus, beginner’s luck, because the company "New City" resisted, being led by honest people who did not change the initial contract, and the price remained unchanged. I imagine how much customers pay today ... Only two years ago they contacted me from the company to let me know that the works would start very soon, and as the oldest buyer I had the right to come on site to choose the plots where my future buildings would be erected. Two months ago I saw the houses erected, almost ready for delivery. Then I paid almost the rest of the amount, with all my savings for the last 10 years. I'll give the final check in exchange for the keys, after my engineer does the last check. But that doesn't matter anymore, I manage with a "trifle" of 200 thousand.

What a story, God, hard to believe. How much more happens in someone’s life! I wondered in silence. But now I knew that the final amount, whatever it was, I would pay from my savings. The newsletter interrupted my thoughts, and my plans were postponed to the next day. In fact, I wasn't even going to talk about them with Ari. I simply contacted the bank clerk where my salaries were collected, asking her for a brief report on the savings made month after month, year after year, since Dani graduated from college and moved from home. On this occasion, I found out how little I consumed for myself all this time and how much money was in my savings account. Therefore, as the end of the month was near, I ordered the release of the amount of 250 thousand shekels from the account, and their transfer to Ari's account. A few days later I announced that he would find this money in his bank, without unnecessary discussions, without protests. If he wants me to move in with him to live our lives together, he has to accept my financial contribution. Which is actually nothing compared to the millions he spent buying a duplex villa with all the comforts I would not have dreamed of. Not that I felt the need for luxury or more comfort, but I will move to the villa only because I want my life in two, with him and only with him.

With that, we canceled any contradiction regarding money, and this subject remained closed forever. In the meantime, I got back to work, part-time for now. At lunch we were already at home and enjoying the pleasure of eating together. And to prepare the luggage for the move: the suitcases with our clothes, plus household goods inherited from parents. It was then that the second war broke out in Lebanon, and the first alarm siren caught us still in the old house. The next day Ari made two trips between the houses, transporting all the luggage and first of all me, to the place where he thought he could shelter me. I really had an armored room in each building, located in the center, with no windows, separated only by a wall. They were both furnished in the same way, with a wide sofa and two armchairs. During an alarm, thinking of Dani, of all the children exposed to so many dangers, it seemed to me that something was wrong in this room, but I postponed this thought for "after" ... when the danger would pass and I wouldn’t have to think of anything more important. After that came the period of silence, we Israelis live in war, or in peace. Alarms in Tel Aviv ceased, settlements in the North calmed down, but mothers did not stop crying for their fallen sons or even in the bombings of Hezbollah. As usual, the country continued normal life every day: running to work, bargains, entertainment, weddings, holidays abroad ... We are used to this kind of life, and the habit has become a way of survival. And the two of us soon managed to feel great at home in the new home. At home and together, what could be better? I didn't even realize how quickly the first year after the surgery passed, then another and another. I was healthy, at least that's what my doctor said, carefully reading all the tests and x-rays. Too bad he couldn't read my soul, then he would barely understand why I recovered so quickly and completely. The magic prescription was "happiness", but I didn't tell that to the doctor. I avoided looking ridiculous in the eyes of strangers, it was enough for me and my boyfriend to know it. I was working full time again, but "like every normal person" after as Ari asked me. This means that I did my duty from 8 to 3, and I got home at the latest around 4. Or even earlier if I didn't sometimes go into a small shopping store. The real supply was
usually made once a week when we both drove to a supermarket where everything was,
so we gathered what we needed in one place, without wasting time. We decided to respect "our time" that was due to our joys. We had to be together all hours except those due to work. Ari said that we had to make up for the time that married couples enjoyed in their youth. Or, we have less time until "the end" therefore we will take advantage of every moment. He received patients in the private practice in the mornings, when I was at work. He also had an assistant, a skilled young man, a final year student at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine named Tomer Levy. Of course, the young man was free to take classes and came to the office in the afternoon to receive urgent cases, thus freeing Ari. Usually afternoons were quiet, with patients scheduled until noon. Thus, Tomer had time to study for exams, especially since all the books from the medical library at home were available to him. Just as he could use one of the bedrooms whenever he wanted to study at night; then we invited him to dinner with us, and so Tomer became a member of our family. Especially since after graduation he had secured a job in Ari's office, which was increasingly frequented by families who cared for their pets. In a word, Dr. Braun was increasingly in demand, which was reflected in fairly substantial monthly income, even after paying all taxes. Tomer began to receive an honorable salary, only the accounting was free: I did it, with pleasure and joy. And I'm lying, I wasn't an unpaid accountant, many "employees" would have been happy to receive the reward I enjoyed. I had everything a woman could want in life. Love, tenderness, affection ... and entertainment. Ever since Tomer took over some of the worries of the cabinet management, the two of us went to the theater more often, to concerts, sometimes we even allowed ourselves a short vacation in Eilat or in Greece, by boat. My Dani was in constant contact with us, from time to time he even managed to stop for a short visit. He was very pleased with our home, he understood that the two bedrooms upstairs were available to him, only to make time on a weekend to stay with us. With his girlfriend, why not? That's when I just found out that my girlfriend left him a while back.

- Why? I burst out surprised, you didn't tell us anything ... after you've been together so long!...

The answer was short:

- Girls want to get married, have children, and I couldn't offer that. I have just been accepted for postdoctoral studies at New York University. Obviously, I'm also entrusted with teaching a course, I just have to support myself, right? Such an opportunity is not denied.

- And after that ... you don't come back, couldn't it be postponed?

- Imale, things don't work out that way. Ira, my girlfriend is right ... from her point of view. She doesn't want to wait who knows how long ... and what will happen next, who knows? "Out of sight, out of mine" - she says, and I do not have a guarantee for the future. What do I know what our situation will be like in 3, 4, 5 years. Ira turns 26, has a law degree, wants to be a wife and mother. I can't ask her to make sacrifices for me, to wait for years in insecurity.

- It's okay, Dani, don't bother. As you present things, there is no true love. You felt good together, now each of you continues on their own way.

- Why do you tell him that, how can you know if it was love or not?, I jumped upset.

- Well, how could I not know? I loved you without a moment's hesitation, that's why I managed to wait 14 years for the right moment to conquer you. Maybe I was a weird exception in my own way, but I knew what I wanted. And Dani knows what he has to do with his life! He's a big boy!

My son stood up and hugged Ari hard. Then he whispered a few words to himself that moved me to tears:

- Now I understand how wonderful it is to have a father. I have not yet realized how important the father 's existence is in a boy's life. Aba! That's how I'm going to call you from now on, Abale! ...

And I who always thought I could be a mother and a father at the same time! I was hurt by the boy's statement, but I was also happy with the way he accepted my husband.

- Oh, I thought, we finally have a real family!

Two months later, my boy left the nest. Neither the hyper-modern phone nor the skype calls will replace the warm hug I feel when I hold him in my arms. But Ari is right, the boy has grown up, I have to let him live his life at will. We both drove him to the airport. Before parting, Ari quickly slipped an envelope into his jacket pocket. He said only briefly: "enough for the beginning, until the first salary" Dani turned abruptly and climbed the steps to the boarding gates. Only when he reached the top step did he turn once more and raised his hand in greeting. Only I noticed that his eyes shone with the dampness of indelible tears. I did not manage to say a word until I got in the car behind Ari. I thought I could cry without him noticing. He let me cry freely until I got home. I jumped straight into the bathroom to wash my face, to apply a little powder in the hope of saving something of my messy appearance. Then I sat down on the couch next to Ari, and he took my head under his warm shoulder, kissed me on the head, and told me that I would soon see how well it would be. I didn't ask anything because Ari wouldn't know what it would be like either. But he kept reassuring me.

- The world is small, it's easy to get from one place to another, no matter how far away. And then Dani knows that he has always a house waiting for him and parents who love him. He will do as it will be better.

I couldn't bear to be comforted anymore, so I changed my mind to ask him what was in the envelope he had put in the boy's pocket.

- Nothing at all ... I put $ 20,000 on it to help him in the beginning. Then he will earn enough.

I didn't know what to say but to mutter:

- Abale ... How did you endure the first period after your Ori left?

- The first period was terrible, I ended it with a heart attack. But when I was released from the hospital, I decided to live. I looked left and right and saw that my life was no different from others. We give birth to children and that's fine, humanity must exist. We love them to the point of self-forgetfulness, so we have to, because they didn't ask us to give them life, we wanted them. That is why we owe everything to them unconditionally until the end, and the children return our feelings, if we deserve it. From the first day, however, we, the parents, have the obligation towards ourselves to prepare ourselves for the moment when these sweet babies stop depending on us, and as such they go out into the world to see their own interests. If I can understand that I have not been abandoned, that the baby always comes back to me for advice and a hug, then I have saved myself from suffering and at the same time we continue to cultivate family life even if we are no longer together. Iulicika, my dear, please think about my experience, but also about my conclusions. If necessary, we can talk about it, but we can continue tomorrow; tomorrow will be a new day.

- A better one, I end the sentence, I hope ...

And I settle more comfortably in my favorite and warm shelter, on Ari's shoulder. As usual, this calms me down, and tomorrow is really shown to me in brighter colors.

The next evening Dani called us from New York, a short but reassuring conversation, from which we learned that he had arrived safely, the trip was comfortable, and at the airport someone was waiting for him from the dormitory administration, where a small studio was reserved in the wing for the teaching staff. In the end, he said that the first impression was excellent, the house was better than the one he would have rented for his money, and the student canteen was at his disposal. The rest will be clarified in the coming days, he will tell us in the next conversations. Now I managed to smile relieved by the good news. And Ari was able to say triumphantly, “What did I tell you yesterday? "I admit a hundred times that Ari is always right, and his decisions are the best. After a few weeks I finally calmed down about my son; we saw each other on skype almost every day, we talked about everything, we at home, and he always had news about his work, nice colleagues who walked him through the special places of the big city, the teacher who guided him, a personality in science, even the students he began to know and love. In a word, Dani was happy, and I felt my heart warm as I saw him shining with joy.

Meanwhile, another event was waiting for us at home, one that was also gratifying. Uri called us to tell us about his little boy, Roy, who was starting to prepare for Bar Mitzvah. He learns with a young and very friendly Rabbi, so the child enjoys going to lessons and has a significant interest in learning Hebrew. Which was very important to Roy. That's why they decided to celebrate the event twice: once at their home, that is, at their neighborhood Synagogue, in the presence of his wife Rachel's American relatives, and then to come to Israel to celebrate it with us at Kotel in Jerusalem. And anyway he wants to show the country to his wife and children. And the most important thing of all will be for him, Uri, the opportunity to satisfy his longing for his father, to be together after so many years. The only question was whether it would be possible for us to host them. This time I intervened first with a loud, noisy "yes": let them come, even tomorrow, I said, we are waiting for them with open arms, and your father is already melting with joy. I am also very happy and I assure him that they will have four bedrooms in our house.

Uri was pleased with the affirmative answer, but also with my sincere reaction. I was ready to make every effort to make Ari's children a beautiful welcome, to see him happy.

Although Bar Mitzvah was supposed to be only half a year away, we decided to start preparations without delay. I already knew what to start with, and I hoped Ari would agree with me. I remembered that once, years ago, when we were both sitting in the armored room during an alarm, it seemed to me that something was wrong with finishing that place. I couldn't focus on the thought then, and when the war ended, I forgot the idea. Now the thought came back, I really needed to talk to Ari about it.

- Come with me, please, in the middle room, I have to show you something.

We both went in and led Ari to the couch we both sat on during the air alarms.

- Don't you think something is inappropriate here?, I ask. Let me tell you, let's not dwell: this room communicates with the room having the same destination in the building next door. Or, both buildings belong to us. Why not break the wall on a small portion to build a communication door between house "A" and house "B". The advantage: if the children in America are here, they will feel "at home" with the whole family, having an interior transition from their bedrooms to the living room and the living room where we will sit together. And in other situations, such as the wars that are repeated periodically in our country, during an alarm none of us is forced to leave the house; we just open the door and we're together. There is also room for patients who happen to be at the consultation just then.

Ari caught the idea and agreed. The matter was resolved quickly and it turned out nicely, beyond my expectations. Now I could say that we have only one large and well-developed villa. Over the years, I hope that our children will continue the tradition of a united family in these rooms. But ... there's no rush for such thoughts.

After that, I had enough time to redecorate the guest bedrooms, and I was proud of how well I accomplished long before our nephew's 13th birthday.

One day, it was towards the end of working hours, the phone rang for a long time in my office.

- I'm not getting any more calls, I barked into the receiver. I'm already ready to leave, so postpone any conversation for tomorrow.

- But it’s your husband, how do you want me to postpone him?, Ella tells me, the secretary, transferring me to the hotline.

I'm surprised Ari calls me up half an hour before I get home and on the work phone. I pick up the phone quickly and hear his gentle, dear voice:

- Honey, I'm near the building, if I get out of the car they'll fine me. So no one will fine you if you leave the building and sit directly on your seat next to the driver.

- Okay, I say, I'm lucky I love the driver, or I 'd be upset that he'd call me at the last minute before I left. Here I come.

On the way to the elevator I saw the secretary’s grin. Sure she listened, but I don’t care... I don't want to straighten out old habits. But I asked Ari why he was looking for me through the exchange and not directly on my phone.

- To please the secretary, let her listen with interest to at least one conversation a day!

On Rothschild Blvd., we sat at a secluded table in a Chinese bar. We were enveloped in a pleasant semi-darkness that created an atmosphere of intimacy. I don't know why Ari chose this place, not at all because he was a fan of exotic food. I had a strange feeling, like a man who does not know what awaits him, good or bad news. Suddenly I found myself tense, watching very carefully the movements and facial expressions of the man in front of me. It seemed to me for a split second that it was not Ari who was sitting at the table, but someone else, a stranger. But I recovered immediately and decided to shorten this embarrassing insecurity.

- Honey, order something to drink and let it go. I understand that we came here to talk about something important, although we could do it at home. We have, thank God, a spacious, comfortable and quiet house, where there are conditions for conversations. But if you wanted to be here, ok. Let's hear what it's about!

Ari cleared his throat just as we were brought soft drinks and two appetizing pies, though it was impossible to guess what they contained. I pushed my plate to the center of the table to make room for my elbows. Now I was standing in a waiting position, looking questioningly in Ari's direction. And he finally spoke:

- Yaeli, my dear, I wonder why after so much happy life together, you and I have not taken the right step to unite our destiny. In other words, it's time to get married like all people who love each other.

- Well, we've talked about it before, we agreed that in the golden years, when there is love and mutual trust, marriage is no longer an emergency. Maybe we'll do it one day, maybe not. But we are an inseparable couple and that's how all the people who know and respect us know us. What's the matter right now? Tell me more, I imagine that from 8 in the morning until now something has happened; I hope you will be honest with me as always. Come on, I'm waiting...

- I have nothing to hide from you. Uri called me, trying to get on skype. I understood it would be a longer story, and I wasn't wrong. He wanted to talk to each other, not in Rachel's presence, not yours. Therefore, the family decided to cancel the trip to Israel, and you to come to us to celebrate Roy's Bar Mitzvah. The official pretext: any walk through Israeli cities is dangerous for children, especially in Jerusalem. Secondly, such a celebration that includes the whole family costs us too much. Now there are reasons written "between the lines". My mother, being a very good friend with her mother-in-law, so also with Rachel, wants to be present at the big "simcha", but obviously she won't be able to stay with her husband in your house, no matter how big, even with four bedrooms for guests. "Now my wife, Uri continues, has her reasoning and I have to understand her. She considers that no matter how good and nice you two are, you live far away, but my mother continues to live permanently around her. And she has always helped us with money, especially at the beginning of the marriage, and she is still very generous with her grandchildren, her future heirs. But, I wouldn't even want you to find yourself with the whole unknown family in your house, especially some of them are nosy and it's not out of the question to gossip about you not being married. Especially mom. Who should have apologized and thanked you for taking care of me for so many years in her place.

In conclusion, Uri begs me to come to them, he doesn't even think of celebrating his child without me by his side. That's about it, we talked about these issues for almost an hour. Of course, I'm waiting for your opinion, and I also told the boy that he would receive an answer after you make a decision.

- Ok, I agree, I'll think about all the problems, I promise. In a day or two we will continue the discussion. Is home okay, or are we dating in a romantic place? Isn't it that we still have enough time, and our salon is pleasant enough to talk at home. Now eat the pie, I imagine it is tasty. Or maybe not, I added after the first encore.

Of course, I was concerned about our problem, because Ari's son put us in front of a serious problem. Which I had to work out. I'm not lying in saying the whole thing didn't humiliate me. I was also upset, I don't know exactly with whom, maybe the irony of fate. Ori's mother traveled the world, making a living, as the Israelis say, leaving Ari with a small child in great trouble. Now she has money, which gives her the right to be a good mother-in-law, to enjoy grandchildren, to leave inheritances. And the daughter-in-law does not want to lose this "treasure" in favor of a father-in-law she does not even know, even if he made sacrifices for her beloved husband. On the other hand, I believe that the desire of the "lady" to join the children in the country she left unscrupulously, has a clear reason as the light of day: to give her pleasure to screw another plot, to criticize the new house of the ex-husband and his material situation much better than the one in which she left him; maybe she would also like to meet me, and of course she will have some criticism: I am not as elegant, beautiful and young as she is. Yes, I'm not young and she probably has known for a long time what the age difference is between us. We finally came to a decision that we communicated to Ari after lunch, when we had our dessert in the living room.

- Honey, I thought a lot about everything you told me the day before yesterday, I decided how we will proceed in the newly created situation.

- I look forward to the answer...

- You must be with your son at our nephew's party. No doubt you have to give him this joy, both for him and for you. I can imagine how much you both torment yourself after not seeing each other for an eternity. You will leave without me, it will be better for Uri, maybe for you, to enjoy each other. I would feel awkward in the daughter- in- law's family, all strangers. And then I can't get a vacation now, because I've already been approved one for June. I think then, after you return, we'll be able to get married at one of the Tel Aviv Temples, and then go on a ... honeymoon trip for 2-3 weeks. What do you say?

- I would say otherwise, I want you with me in America, but do I have a veto?

- No, unfortunately, although I promise you it's the only veto I'm taking on you for the rest of the time. In the future, you will make all the important decisions, or, let's say, we will make them together. This time, however, I am not able to obey your wish. I cannot! Please understand...

Ari understood as usual. He didn't press me, he didn't insist. He seemed a little disappointed, even sad, but without too many questions he accepted my verdict.

I prepared the two suitcases for the trip. One was full of his best clothes, and for the
big day I bought him a very elegant suit, some matching shirts, and enough underwear. The other suitcase was filled with gifts for the birthday boy and the other grandchildren, and for the daughter-in-law, her mother and the other relatives, I bought perfumes and souvenirs from the “Holy Land” which the Americans enjoy so much. I was convinced that Ari would do well on the spot. I imagine he would leave Uri a nice sum in dollars, which seemed perfectly normal to me. Maybe even necessary: ​​who knows what his financial situation is. It's just that not all Americans are millionaires. Of course I did not touch on this subject, in the end the father and the son meet again
after many years, and the joy is manifested in all forms, why not in money? Ari decided to take a taxi to the airport and I stayed home; he didn't like the thought of leaving me alone in the waiting room, only to wait in line to get a taxi back home. We said goodbye in the living room, without foreign witnesses at our parting that hurt us both. I drove him to the street, I saw how he got into the car after the driver put the two suitcases in the trunk. Then I raised my hand in greeting until the taxi disappeared around the corner. I went back to bed without falling asleep again, even though it was barely 6 in the morning. I still had time to get dressed for work, but I preferred to accompany my man, in my mind, step by step, at least until he got on the plane. And I was convinced that he would call me before boarding, I think I had already begun to miss him. How will I manage in the next three weeks?  

 


 

 

 

 

 

Chapter III

ARI BRAUN

 

 

The plane took off from "Ben Gurion" Airport at 8:45, with the precision of a clock. I settled comfortably in my seat by the window, this time in first class. Yael bought me the tickets and thought I would have to make an impression on those who would be waiting for me in New York. To me this idea of “impression” seemed childish, but I have to admit it that if you pay some extra money you enjoy some comfort, even some papering. Yael said that on such a long journey it is important to feel good, to get to your destination rested and not exhausted. Now I realize how right my wise woman was. I was immediately served a large cup of coffee and cookies, just an hour before breakfast; which was no different from an elegant meal served in a five-star restaurant.

What the hell, I thought, where are we? Do travelers behind the curtain eat like that? I can't believe the price difference was so high. The newspapers were also brought, in English and Hebrew. Then I woke up joking with the stewardess, telling her that I would like another magazine "Der Spiegel" in German and "Revista Familiei" in Romanian. The girl responded with an "immediately" and in two minutes she returned with the two publications. "Now that it's clear I'm polyglot, I need to let the young lady know I'm going to sleep." When she returned from the next traveller, I stopped the girl again to ask for a blanket and a pillow, because "I usually fall asleep when I read too much." Without smiling, she brought blankets and pillows.

- Does the gentleman want anything else, maybe a soft drink?

- No, thank you. I mean, yes, if there's a cold drink here called "water".

- Of course, sir, I'll send you water right away." I'm retiring, I have to prepare the meal for the first stop in Istanbul. Then we have another stop in London, and from there we will continue uninterrupted to the final station, New York.

- Thank you, miss, both for the service and for the information. And sorry if I joked.

- No need to thank me, doctor, I'm doing my duty, this is my job. You also serve my father very well, whenever he needs medical help at his old man's household. I have to go, but I'll see you around noon. I’ll send the water immediately.

*

When I was left alone with myself, I kept thinking “how small the world is” - wanting and not being able to sneak in without someone recognizing you. Then I wrapped myself tightly in the blanket and lay down comfortably on the wide, soft couch (first class on an American plane!). The newspapers didn't say anything new compared to last night's news, so I gave up reading, trying to fall asleep. Maybe I fell asleep for a while, about 10-15 minutes, but I woke up when I got cold water, I drank half a bottle and that's it, I felt rested and refreshed. When I’m awake I think about Yael. I feel that discomfort and regret again that I set off without her. I called her, but we only spoke for a few moments at the airport, because she was already getting ready to go to work. We had only been apart for two hours and I already felt that it would be very difficult to be alone for so long. That means I'm always alone right in the middle of a crowd, if Yael isn't next to me. And her voice sounded so sad ... even though she encouraged me to enjoy seeing my son again... I'm thinking of surprising Dani and calling him from New York. I can explain that his mother refused to accompany me, although I insisted. Dani will believe me, he knows his mother and knows how stubborn she is when she wants to accept or refuse something. I would be very happy to befriend him with my Uri, maybe I can even convince him to make an effort to be present at our wedding. If it's possible..., I don't force them. They are also busy people... That's how I make speculations and plans. I keep my eyes closed, but I can't sleep anymore. Thoughts assail me, something doesn't let me be and I can't relax.

First, some long-forgotten memories, or stuffed in the subconscious, appear. I left them there because I just didn't want to think about the old pains. It was all so well until the age of 6! My mother was a lady in the true sense of the word, intelligent, cultured,
beautiful. Of course I understood that much later. Only then, at the age of 6, she was my whole world. Warm, sweet, understanding, she understood my wishes before I said them. I loved her madly. I admired my father, I wanted to imitate him, to become like him, a strong,
handsome man, straight as a fir tree. I could hear him reproaching my mother for pampering me: it's not for a future man!

- Instead of me taking him for a brisk walk, or to a match, you send him to piano lessons. We don’t want him to be a spoiled miss!

However, I could feel his presence next to me my bed when he was convinced I was asleep. Then he would pat me on the top of the head, sometimes he would give me a kiss. My grandmother, the one in my life, was my mother's mother. She was originally from Northern Transylvania and was lucky enough to come to Erez Israel with her grandfather in 1938. There were two young married people who went to try their luck in the world. The rest of the family, brothers, sisters, parents perished in Auschwitz a few years later along with thousands of other Jews from Hungary and Transylvania. In 1968, grandmother unexpectedly received a letter from America from a close relative who found her after many years of searching. Indescribable joy and emotion in the family! After a series of exchanges of letters and telephone conversations, it was decided that my parents would pay a visit to this aunt and eventually bring her to the country, to her grandmother's delight. From this trip they did not return. They perished in a plane crash. I still have somewhere a yellowed newspaper and a letter of apology and explanations of the Foreign Ministry and Tourism. I buried them in the bottom of a drawer, I don't want to see them or remember them. I think the flight to America brought back this pathetic memory that I struggled to forget.

We passed Istanbul, I didn't even realize we were on the ground for about 20 minutes, and another passenger appeared in my compartment. So we're flying to London now, and I've decided to give up my thoughts and watch a comedy. Preferably to some sad thoughts or worries about Yaeli. Why did she urge me to go alone, to be happy, to walk without her, what the hell, I have a partner, I'm not single. I'm not anymore!

At this point I stop, because I realized that there must be a reason for her attitude. This woman of mine has a too organized mind, she is much too logical and calm, to get certain decisions out of control. I remember how gladly he made preparations at home to
receive my family. Especially on Or-light “my son, because I don't know the others either. Does that mean she didn't want to see them on their "land," did it bother her? Could this be the presence of my "ex-wife"? Slowly, slowly I begin to light up. Her stubbornness began the day I told her about the phone call with Uri. And what's with that, she might think Oh, no! It gives me a headache, I feel like I can't go through so much of the events of the last few weeks moment by moment, word for word. Something was causing her suffering, and I can't figure out what.             

I have to do something else, rest my head. I get up and the armchair goes in the sitting position. Good, I slacked off too much time in "bed". I take a walk to the end of the plane, a see a toilet, and then another. The second one is for "gentlemen". Since I was there, I told myself to go in, to see how elegant the toilet of a "five star" plane is and on this occasion ... a little more time passes, because I don't have something more interesting to do. I find out that the interior is really up to expectations; I wash my hands, my face, and I comb my hair in front of the mirror that occupies the whole wall. A pleasure to spend part of your trip here! What if someone outside is waiting to come in? I leave with the idea of ​​passing here a few more times until we reach our destination. There are still many hours until then, especially since we have a stopover in London, much longer than in Istanbul. I imagine that many travelers are waiting there too, who will go up to take their vacancies. I saw that the plane was half unoccupied. So, I go back to my chair. I have a TV in front of me, this time I'm determined to "kill" two hours with a movie. 

Yael says the current movies are unbearable, they contain nothing but violence, bloody crimes, drug trafficking. What do young people learn from such movies but methods of stealing and killing? So I go to the movies library and catch a movie from the 70's, “Do You Like Brahms?

- Wonderful, I tell myself, a musical is exactly what I need. It's going to take at least two hours, that's even better. I put my headphones on and go into action. The protagonist of the film, Ingrid Bergman, is known to me. I remember her from "Casablanca" – she was great there too. The action captivates me, and as we move forward I am more and more passionate about the love story and Brahms’ wonderful music. I remember an impressive scene from the movie that obsesses the viewer long after the screen darkens. I was the spectator then. I am referring to the scene of the separation between the two lovers, when the lady removes her young boyfriend because of the big age difference between the two. I turn off the TV, I also close my eyes to relive the scenes from the movie.

- Does a man 15 years younger than the woman he loves have to give up? Will he stop loving her in the future? Or does true love never go away no matter what? People must fight for their love, not give up, then live with regret. Suddenly I remember a scene at a Romanian restaurant in Tel Aviv, when Yael was eating, hungry after a long day of work, and it was then that I began to make declarations of love to her, to tell her that I had loved her for 14 years, without her knowing that I still love her - the same or more than then, and she is unchanged to me, as young and beautiful as the moment I met her. She got up, ready to go. She reminded me that her name was Yulia Bergman and by no means Ingrid Bergman and she asked me to take her home immediately. Now, at this moment, I realized, as young people say. Yael was alluding to the movie I just saw for the first time. She suggested to me that I
was younger than her, that too many years had passed since I said I had fallen in love with her, so in that time she had matured (as if I hadn't changed?) And after all, what would the future have in hand for us?

Wait, I'm talking to Yaeli in my mind, the difference between us is only 4 and a half years; you went through a surgery and radiotherapy, and I have heart problems. Are these reasons to live in panic, to refuse me when I ask you to marry me, to let me go alone to America, just because that selfish and treacherous woman, my ex-wife, the so-called mother of my son, will be there?

So, Mrs. Bergman, I have to go home to find out about these issues. I thought you were more confident, more courageous. That's how I met you, a boss over the financial department of a million-dollar institution. Probably this was what sustained you – the “ferocious” exterior and nobody suspected the soft, scared and pained core it was covering. Nor me, as an idiot, did not realize that you were suffering for the four damn years that made me in your eyes the "young man" who won hearts!? Your smart little head didn't understand that I wake up every morning with the prayer to be good and handsome enough for you. But we’ll talk!

The plane was just beginning landing maneuvers over London. The morning stewardess approached me to check if I was well and I was not missing anything. I asked her to get closer to me.

- If still know me from home, tell me your name.

- Ania Dombrovsky, you know my family. You gave vaccines to my dog, Whiskey, that cute bastard that once bit you.

- Only once! The second time it didn't get it; I was faster and started the treatment with a small injection to calm it down. After it fell asleep, it was mine: I vaccinated it as many times as I needed, I bandaged its fractured paw, if you remember. And that's how you tame the tiger! Now I want you to give me some advice: I have decided to return home, meaning not to continue the journey with this plane. Help me get around in this huge airport, buy a ticket to Tel Aviv and not wait too long.

- We land immediately and I will ask these questions to our pilot. Captain Andrew, he's a golden guy. I'll be right back.

After landing, we all went downstairs to unwind. Ania looked for me in the crowd.

- Doctor, the captain compliments you and regrets that you are leaving us. Please enter the boarding hall, on the left wall are the counters of several airlines. Go to the counter no. 3, greetings from Captain Andrew, accompanied by his request to be served with an "emergency" ticket on an El-AL. One might leave in an hour and a quarter. Ask if it can be exchanged with your ticket if someone is looking for an emergency ticket to New York.

- What does an emergency ticket mean?

- One refused by someone who had reason to give up at the last minute. Like you.

- I understand, thousands of thanks. And to the captain. I will tell your father that we met and how kind and skillful his daughter is. He must be proud of such a child!

- Yala, goodbye, and I hope we get a chance to see each other at home.

In two hours I was flying to Tel Aviv. It was 9 o'clock in the evening. I was no longer sitting in a first-class armchair, but in the first chair on the aisle, facing the aisle. I received a bottle of cold Ein Ghedi water. I drank from time to time to have enough to reach Ben Gurion Airport. I felt so good, like a man who won the big prize. I stretched my legs as if I were resting in the living room at home, and in front of me was Yaeli lowering the TV volume so I could fall asleep. In fact, I fell asleep so relaxed that it was only later that I realized that the plane was already making landing maneuvers. I was home! The clock read 3 o'clock after midnight. Until I started with a taxi home it was 5 o'clock. Just in time as not to wake Yulicika.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter IV

 

NIGHTMARE NIGHT

 

 

I worked many hours’ overtime that day. I had a lot of unresolved issues out of the last three days before Ari's departure. Today, on the other hand, everything was always at my disposal to "clean the table" loaded with works. But most of all, I was even trying to extend the
working hours, in order to delay my return home as much as possible. Eventually, however, I arrived around 9 o'clock, and from the door I immediately felt the familiar atmosphere of an empty house as I remember it from the past. From those empty years, living aimlessly alone, like a man lost in the desert. After Dani left, I had just begun to feel the pressure of the silence, of the complete loneliness I was stubborn to get used to. But now, after tasting the warmth of life together, I would not resist going a second time through the hell of silence in which only my own thoughts are heard. I went into the kitchen hungry. From morning coffee until this hour, I hadn’t eaten anything. I didn't have time to go down to the buffet, but I couldn't eat either. In the end I got hungry, the body works according to its needs and habit, and asks for the food it deserves. I had a refrigerator full of everything;

I took out an egg and some butter to soften the dry bread, forgotten on the table in the evening. I also drank two cups of fruit tea, I think I was thirsty. Until I gathered and put the dishes away, it was 10 o'clock. I thought I deserved a shower and a few hours of sleep. Tomorrow morning, I was convinced that Ari would call. We had both decided not to consider the time when we wanted to talk. Even in the middle of the night I am happy to wake up, to hear him! I left the bathroom door open to hear the phone. Who knows, maybe he'll call from London? Or not, there's too much fuss at the airport, I have no idea how short the stopover is... I'd better calm down, he’ll call in the morning. Around 11 o'clock I went to bed, without falling asleep before hearing the night news.

- Sure, I haven't listened to the news all day... at least now the last news... The announcer,
Lior Friedman, appeared and got into the subject: an hour ago there was a terrible plane crash: a plane crashed plane with 145 passengers shortly after takeoff from London airport, bound for New York. No details are yet known about the cause of the crash that occurred across the Atlantic Ocean. The search for possible survivors has begun. It is unknown at this time if any Israeli citizens were in that plane. During the morning, telephone lines will be opened at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Tourism to provide information to those interested.             

I haven't heard the rest. I got out of bed like a sleepwalker without knowing which direction to take. I turned in a circle trying to think, but my thoughts froze, in front of my eyes wider and wider black circles like water disturbed the silence, then my legs softened, they were not moving, and I collapsed on the carpet, my back against the edge of the bed. I don't know how long I stayed like that, slowly I started coming back. First the brain woke up, and I managed to say Ari's name slowly. After that the sound amplified, I shouted, Ari! once, twice, and the third time the scream of a wounded beast came out of me: Aryans! Aryans, answer me! Don’t throw me back into the desert! Don't leave me after you showed me what life next to you looks like... I think I screamed like that until I was exhausted, but no one could hear me in the two empty houses. I was alone, thrown somewhere on a frozen planet. That's when I felt cold. Then I thought I had to do something. I won't find Ari lying on the carpet. After a superhuman effort I managed to get up. I stood still for a few moments, like a drunk who lost his courage to start. But I started, I put on my street clothes, my shoes, I took out an umbrella, I have no idea why. The first impulse was to start looking for him, when the logical question arose, - “where can I look for him at midnight?" I sat down in his chair to think. In that place where he sits every night, rests, makes plans, we both talk about anything. I hear his soft voice guiding me...: Yaeli, don't bother in vain. Wait for dawn. Talk to someone, you alone will not find the solution. You're too scared now. Tomorrow, leave it for tomorrow!

I stayed in the armchair, it was hard for me to get up on my cotton feet anyway. Then I felt the need to talk to someone, anyone, just to hear a human voice. The phone was in my hand, and as I searched through my business contacts, I found the operator's number. Should I wake her up? Yes, it's a case of force majeure. To hear a human voice and to find out that I am not alone in the Universe. And I called. It was past midnight. The phone rang, a minute, two, three... The long ring of the phone woke me up to reality. Now I realize the girl is fast asleep, or maybe she's not even home. I give up. I'll talk to God, I think. I haven’t addressed him for many years, since he took my husband, turning him into a hero, or perhaps a victim of humanity. I don't know how I should pray anymore, but a question presses on my soul that I must ask: Why, Lord, do you beat me twice with the same stick? Why did you choose me to show me the same face of suffering twice? Wasn't it once enough to become Your tried and strengthened heroine of pain? This time I am neither strong nor heroine, like when I had the duty to raise a child; today I have lost the strength and the will to survive. This time I fall and roll into the abyss! ...

I woke up again on the floor, my nose stuffed in the carpet. I had no air, I was suffocating. I sat up, trying to adjust my breathing. The phone was still in my hand. When my brain cleared and my breathing regulated, I realized I had fainted. It was time to call the operator again. I couldn't make out the number in the dark, but I didn't have the strength to roll to the wall to turn on the light. But pressing the screen, it lit up and I was surprised to see the photo of Ella, my secretary. Apparently her number was on my phone, and I accidentally pressed it. And suddenly, miraculously, I hear Ella calling to me in an alarmed voice:

- Yael, what happened to you calling at this hour? Are you okay? Do you need me?

I burst into tears, I couldn't control myself. I cried the pain that pierced my heart like a knife, but also the relief, hearing that there was someone else awake who wanted to talk to me. Eventually the tears dried, and Ella asked me to calm down, that anything can be solved, no matter the reason for my upset. I burst into a fierce scream, scaring her too:

- Nothing can be solved since a plane with many passengers crashes into the ocean. And in that plane, my Ari was also traveling!

There was a heavy silence, I thought the connection was broken. But no, Ella's voice returned with incredible calm

- Are you convinced Ari was on that plane?

...Almost convinced; that is, everything fits, the plane took off at 9 o'clock in Tel Aviv, after a short stop in Istanbul it arrived in London, they stayed there longer, I don't know how long, to board the passengers to New York. That's all I've known since the last newsletter.

- Well, that's all I know, did you forget that I bought the ticket for you, don't I take care of all your problems?

- Yes, forgive me! What can I do now, can you give me some advice?

- My advice is to lie in bed so you don't faint on all the carpets in the house. You need rest, to gain strength. I’ll take care of everything: in the morning, in the first hour, I will contact the tourism official. No, now it can't be done, she has to open the computer in the office. Then she'll see which flight Ari took, I imagine a lot of planes take off every quarter of an hour to the same destination, New York. I'll call you at 7:15 at the latest. And now, sleep for a few hours, take a sedative or even a sleeping pill.

I was left alone again in my silence. A little calmer: I saw a ray of hope.

After a while, I had no idea how long, I managed to get up, heading for the bedroom, determined to listen to Ella because I personally had no ideas or will. Luckily I found her to tell me what to do.

I was a robot moving under the control of an intelligent being. There's no medicine in my nightstand, so I'm looking on the other side of the bed, in Ari's drawer. I take a Vaben pill from an unopened box and swallow it with a little warm water from the bathroom faucet. Then I lie down on the bed, as Ella asked me to do. I can't sleep, I didn't expect it, but as time went on I felt more relaxed and could organize my thoughts. I even watched the dawn begin to tear through the darkness of the night, and I waited to see how the first rays of the sun would pierce the night. Perhaps thinking this is a state unusual, atypical and waking up immediately with a strong jolt. Anyway, I was nervous. Probably because of this it seemed to me at one point that I heard some movements at the front door, but I thought I was dreaming, you can't hear anything in the bedroom separated by the four-room front door, even if I didn't close all the doors. However, I opened my eyes and pricked up my ears, and in the total silence of the night any noise amplifies and can be distinguished much more easily than during the days bombarded by the roar of cars and planes. I hear, I'm sure I hear the front door open; I'm not afraid of thieves, at the moment I'm not afraid of death either. So I get up, listen, then go down determined to see what's going on in the hall. I sneak without breathing through the large living room, through the living room with concrete walls, I pass through a hallway that forks between the kitchen and the large hallway at the entrance to the house, also furnished to receive some guests. And here I put armchairs, a coffee table and a small TV. So I got here and sat in the first armchair that was already outlined in the dim light of dawn, thinking that I should have hidden behind a piece of furniture if I had the strength to sit so as not to be seen. But my knees were shaking and I wondered how I managed to get here. I really hear the door open, someone brings in a piece of luggage by pushing it with his foot, so that his left hand looks for the switch. And right now the light comes on, I let out a wild scream, the third one tonight from the nightmare, I want to rush to the door, but I stumble over the table and fall directly into Ari's arms. This is followed by an impenetrable darkness, I do not see, I do not hear, I do not breathe. I have no idea how long it was before I found myself lying on our bed in the bedroom, and Ari, sitting next to me with the blood pressure monitor next to me, trying to make me swallow a pill with very cold water. I feel a compress on my forehead, another on my chest, both cold as ice. I throw everything away from me, sit up and with both hands I grab my husband's head, pull him towards me and lean all the way against him. I can't say a word, though he keeps asking:

- What happened to you, my dear, what's with this emotion, the fainting, why were you so scared? I only left for 24 hours, if I knew it would be so hard for you to be alone in this big house, I would have given up leaving. Only you insisted on leaving, you brought me a plane ticket, but you didn't say a word that you wanted me to stay home. Say something, I want to hear your voice, speak..., please!

I tried to adjust my breathing, to calm down, to be I'm glad Ari lives and sits next to me. When I finally wanted to answer him, instead of intelligible words, a long cry came out of me that was impossible to calm down. But the phone rang, I made a sign for him to answer, and it was Ella, an hour earlier because she was concerned about my condition. Blessed Ella, my support and help for years, has also proved useful in resolving my private life. She informed Ari about the reason of my despair, telling him everything about the plane crash and about the nightmarish night I went through alone, until I dared to wake her in the middle of the night to ask her for advice. Finally, feeling how shocked Ari was only now to know about the previous night's catastrophe, she promised to inform us of all the news she would get in an hour or two from her friend - a clerk at the tourist office.

Slowly I calmed down, not so much because of the medicine to lower my blood pressure, but because of the presence of my man, alive and unharmed next to me. The television started broadcasting before the usual time, and when Ella called we had already heard that it was not the plane Ari was traveling with that had crashed, but another that took off 20 minutes after it. However, what a disaster it was! More than 140 people died. The black box was also searched for to determine the causes of the accident. Although for them, the poor people, it didn't matter anymore, they wouldn't get anywhere. Maybe finding out the causes of this disaster will help us avoid other accidents, save other lives.

The two of us sat chained together all morning on the living room couch, with all the appliances, radios and televisions on in each room, looking on all the stations to hear any news that might be transmitted about the disaster. By and large, the same thing was heard everywhere, the catastrophe was catastrophic, and the victims could not return from beyond. Woe to those who are in pain, woe to grieving families!

We went to bed in the afternoon, we were tired. I slept uninterrupted until the next morning. The sun rose in the sky like every day, life goes on for all mankind. This is how our world lives on you are here now, the next moment you aren’t... We are passing through on these lands…             

I was telling all to with Ari when we finally sat down to eat a normal lunch. Only now did he tell me all the details of his journey to London, even about the stewardess who knew him from home and was so kind, even helping him change course. I told him absolutely everything about my last night, about the black despair that gripped me, depriving me of courage, discernment, even the ability to think and make a decision.

- I'm ashamed to admit that I felt lost in outer space. What does that mean? I probably lost all my abilities as an independent man. Ari, I'm no good without you. I think we need to get married, it's not like that anymore, I don't want life together without being your legal wife.

There was a heavy silence between us. I suddenly notice that Ari is smiling. I was scared:

- What's going on, I ask, have you changed your mind?

- God forbid, how can I change my mind, I have asked you so many times to do it. Only one thought came to me: if I knew what could make you accept, I would have left a long time ago with a plane ready to crash. But no, I'm kidding, at least I'm alive now, so tomorrow I can go to Rabanut to start the action. But know that once you have gone through a religious wedding, you will not be able to easily file for divorce. There only the man has the decisive word.

- I know everything about religious rules, but I accept. I have nowhere to go... I love you enough to endure this "trouble".

In a few days I already knew the date and place of the wedding: the next month, on the 18th, at the Great Temple, Ben Yehuda Street. Guests: closest friends, from me Ella and her husband, and Ben David, my direct boss, for whom I had mixed feelings, and his wife. But I had no other relatives, and Ben David was a very old acquaintance of Ari's. There were invited two of oldest "patients” of Ari: the owner of a household in a grove near Kfar Saba, who sometimes visited us at home. More than once he told me that all his "wealth" had been “delivered” by Dr. Braun. Even the shepherd dog licks the hands of the one who delivered it. The second client was the owner of Whiskey, the handsome little bandit who must be treated under anesthesia, together with his wife, the kind stewardess on the Tel-Aviv-New York flight. And the last one I remembered is actually the first on the guest list and the closest to our house, Ari's assistant, today also a veterinarian, already married to a very nice girl, history teacher. But they are both part of the family.

I talked to Ari about "how and when to talk to our American boys".

- We can't put them in front of an accomplished fact.

Ari thought we should call them both, tell them about our decision, including the date of the wedding, but without asking them to be present. Everyone has a job and a house. Uri also had a wife and children. It would mean forcing them to spend too much. So, said and done, we called each one separately, but in the same evening, so that no one would feel neglected. They didn't know about Ari's interrupted journey, so I didn't insist on this. Uri wanted to tell us how successful the celebration of Bar Mitzvah was and how sorry he was that we could not be present. But instead Dani honored him by attending the celebration. We were both very happy to talk to our sons. To us they were still children and we could not replace them in our minds with two adult men with responsibilities.

Our wedding went wonderfully; we extended it with a festive meal at an elegant seaside restaurant. Our guests felt great, but we were happy as in your early youth. Definitely, there is no age for love!

In the next period I managed to get rid of the night fears, and the parasitic dream that tormented me for months: planes on fire, planes sinking in the turbulent waters of the ocean, and every time someone said to me “your man was in that plane” or “hurry, maybe you can still save him”. And I was running like crazy, screaming “Ari, Ari, Ariii!”. Eventually he forced me
to tell him what was going on with me that night, and after much insistence, I had a hard time talking about it. That helped. Only the fact that I finally managed to tell a dream, then the fear I felt living the dream as a reality did me good. Then Ari would give me a pill every night before I went to sleep, watching me until he was convinced that I was sleeping soundly and peacefully. Then everything passed, the dream disappeared, in the mornings I woke up rested and ready for work. Eventually I stopped receiving the pill before bed and realized that my private doctor had decided that I was cured.

At the beginning of spring, we were talking passionately about the summer vacation.

- It's not good in the summer, I said. European summers have been hotter than ours for some time now. We should leave at the end of June. When the earth is in bloom, the air is fragrant with all the scents, and the whole world bathes between two colors: green and blue.

- I mean, you and I float between the green grass and the blue sky, okay? Have you ever written poems and kept them a secret?

- I've never written a poem. You're the only poetry of my life!

- I see, that means you're dreaming of a vacation in Vienna. That's what you told me years ago, that Vienna is the only place in the world that makes you romantic, nostalgic, musical, melted with pleasure, etc., I don't care how many and more pleasures Vienna offers you. So, so be it, as you wish!

We began to prepare with a feverish joy for this holiday, which above all was our honeymoon...

 

 

 

 

Chapter V

VIENNA

 

 

Ella offered to book our seats for a direct flight to Vienna, including the hotel and all services; Ari opposed: he said it was his duty and pleasure to personally make all the arrangements for the honeymoon, which overlapped with the first vacation abroad that we both enjoyed together. In other years we allowed ourselves some rest days from time to time, but the short time of 3-4 days was enough just to spend them in Tveria, Eilat or the Dead Sea. At that time, we had to pay the debts for the house and the office, apart from the fact that for a long time we were still helping our boys in America. But now we have freed ourselves from the debts and worries of the children. It's time for us to enjoy life.

We arrived in Vienna shortly after midnight. An elegant car from the hotel was waiting for us at the airport; at this late hour the road was not very crowded, the car was running smoothly, without haste on the highway, and I was excited at the entrance to the big city, revealing its enchanting beauty as we approached the brightly lit streets as in the middle of the day. The hotel is located in the most elegant and select center of Vienna, on a quiet street parallel to Stephansplatz.

The interiors, starting with a huge high-ceilinged lobby, painted by artists from ancient times, and the walls covered with a discreet wallpaper and paintings representing the emperors of Austria from all times, convinced me from the very beginning that I arrived at a hotel with "10"! stars. That was the first impression for me, I who had not traveled before and had not stopped in such luxurious places. The same thing happened when a receptionist led the "Dr. Braun family"! to their suite on the 3rd floor, presenting us with a special kindness the bedroom, living room and bathroom, offering to be available at any time if we needed his services. I was a little scared of this elegant style, unknown to me, I didn't even know what to say because of my shyness. When he reached the door, the man stopped for a moment to take one last look to see if he had left everything in perfect order, after which he remembered to warn me that the bouquet of flowers, the candy box and the bottle of champagne were from the house, for "Der Gnedingen Dame". That knocked me over, it had never happened to me that someone addressed me with "Your Honor". Only then did my mouth open, to thank him in his melodious language: "Mitt schoensten Dank fuer Ihre Hoeflichkeit, mein Herr”. He did not comment, did not ask questions, just looked at me for a moment in silence, said:

- Gustav, at your service, good night!

We are finally left alone, with the pampering in which we will bathe in the next two weeks. Ari smiled seeing me so confused and warned me that this pampering is very well paid, it lightens the pockets of tourists, but it's worth it! But I must not be embarrassed by the friendliness of the staff or the European luxury. Everything costs money, a lot of money.

After a quick shower I went to the soft, total comfort. I don't know if I could say another word, because I was already asleep. At 9:45 a.m. the next morning I opened one eye, it took me five minutes to remember where we were and another 10 minutes to wake Ari up. By the time we got down to the hotel restaurant, lunch was already served. So we lost half a day of our vacation, which we decided not to repeat. Now we were rested, fed up, satisfied, ready to start the walk through Vienna.

We spent the first afternoon in Vienna walking around without any precise target. Everything was so wonderful that I wanted no more precise plan than to walk, to see as many places as possible, inhaling and exhaling the fragrant air that surrounded us. Slowly, completely relaxed, we crossed Mozart Park, stopping near the layers of roses, the source of the fragrance of paradise. We walked in silence, holding hands, because even a handshake conveys emotions. From the distance, I admired the statue of Johan Strauss growing in the groves of flowers near a concert hall where a century ago the lively and wonderful sounds of the master's waltzes resounded. Continuing on our way, we knew that today we were just taking a reconnaissance walk and we will return to these places another day to fully enjoy them.

I admired the legendary building of the Viennese Opera from the outside, leaving the pleasure of a complete visit for Friday night, when I had tickets to watch "Carmen". Thus we continued to wander, with small stops, until we reached the "Alte Neustadt", one of the palaces of the imperial family, built in the form of a giant horseshoe, with many passages serving as a shelter for painters to work and exhibit their paintings.

We also found a room open to an exhibition of modern art, we entered following a few other tourists, each expressing their impressions in their language brought from home. Ari and I hardly spoke, admiring and observing in silence. When we went out on the huge lawn around the park, we sat on a bench to rest. Only then did Ari break the silence, but not the permanent silent communication between us.

- We are not typical Israeli tourists. Who would have thought that some Israelis would not comment on all these beauties by shouting and gesturing?

- It’s ok; when we get home, then the exclamations and all the emotions accumulated here quietly will break out. Where do you want to calm our emotional states if not at home, between friends who are excited, like us, in our so expressive language. And with wide gestures!

- But now I'm a bit tired.

- Do you know how to get to our hotel?, I ask.

- How can I not know, you can see it! In front of you are a lot of carriages waiting for a race; choose one! You have to speak to one of the "Kutceri" in his language and the matter is immediately settled.

We approached the long line of carriages and the first coachman, the one at the head of the line, immediately gave us a big sign to go up. I showed him the name of the hotel, the man knew the address and we left. I was sitting comfortably in the armchair next to Ari, looking at the streets to the right and left, although sometimes the wide back of the coachman covered them, and I felt like flying back in time to the time of Kaiser Frantz Iosef and his beloved Empress Sisi. I whispered this in Ari's ear, and he blinked an affirmative answer, something like "This city lives out of time." And I said something else, like, "This carriage ride is worth all the money”, then did the Viennese travel the same way 100 years ago? Therefore, I also felt the time frozen in this city for centuries.

We arrived at the hotel in a few minutes; I would have returned to travel once more, even if the beautiful white horses badly smelled of dung. But I didn't care. I was fine.

The next few days flew by really quickly. In the morning, the Schoenbrun Palace, with its interiors, the emperor's private rooms, the elegant reception halls, the ballroom, the music hall, the grandiose paintings that guarded the walls for hundreds of years, but especially the grandiose, endless park behind the palace, endless green sprinkled with layers of flowers of all colors. I regret that I did not have the strength to go up to the pavilion to which the countless bridesmaids climbed, accompanying the beautiful Empress Sissi.

After lunch and some rest, there was a long walk on Stephansplatz to the Great Cathedral, which gave its name to this street. Ari photographed the cathedral from the outside, its architectural beauty, as well as the wonderful stained glass windows, but we did not dare to ask if it was allowed to film the interiors. I imagine how many amateurs would have been to film all these wonders inside, if it had been allowed.

We spent the next day in Baden, the nearest spa resort. We traveled 50 minutes by city train to this town. Descending from the train we started to walk the first street, the entrance to the resort; on the way we noticed a single-story house, which did not differ from anything else: it looked like all the old buildings, renovated after a long existence. But arriving nearby, I saw a plaque glued to the facade near the first floor; it had an inscription in large, black letters, very easy to decipher. Out of curiosity I got I stopped to read it, and I did well, for I began that day with the greatest surprise: Ludovick van Beethoven lived in this house, in that upstairs apartment, when he composed the Fifth Symphony. I let myself be photographed in all positions, excited as a child, just to be noticed later at home that I sat next to the building where Beethoven lived and worked. For me, this was the highlight of the day. I did not understand how the locals passed indifferently by that sacred place, while I was in the heights of fascination. Ari enjoyed my joy; like any man he was less enthusiastic, but he was charmed by the intensity of my pleasure near European culture. He asked me one day why I was so fascinated by Vienna; I might like Paris as well, if I knew i ... I looked at him in astonishment:

- It's not the same! I don't feel anything personal for Paris, Vienna instead means something special to me; did I ever tell you that my family lived in a territory that had once belonged to Austria? I mean, my great-great-great-grandfather was also an Austrian citizen. My grandparents and my parents inherited the language and the Austrian education, the customs, the gastronomy, even the beautiful stories about the Kaiser, about the wonderful Sissi, the empress, about the love story of the crown prince, beautiful and tragic, because it ended with a suicide. In our family, the tradition continued over time, it spread like folklore, and in this way it reached me. That's why I wanted so much to visit Vienna, because this city, with its life and customs, has never disappeared from the life of my family, including all generations, and until my generation...

And so we continued to wander through the city of "my dreams" every day until the end of the holiday. I visited the tourist park "Der Pratter", with the cheerful crowd of children, admiring their courage to climb the most complicated and dangerous rides, from where they came down pale, scared and very, very satisfied. We also walked through the Viennese Forest, a enchantment of roses painted in all colors, emitting the most delicate perfumes; we took the elevator to the top floor of the television tower at 170 meters high, where on a rotating platform visitors eat ice cream or drink coffee in a pastry shop with transparent walls, and at the same time admire all corners of the city, with the smooth, but continuous rotation of the platform.

In the evening, after about two hours of rest, we decided to dine at the hotel restaurant. I know that we ate a rich menu, presented with good taste and elegance; but without giving too much importance to the contents of the plates, we were instead fascinated by the orchestra that performed exclusively Johan Strauss's music. We didn't know how to dance a waltz, but there were couples who went out in the ring to show us what the real elegant outfit looks like.

- We have our culture, Ari whispered to me: group singing and choir dance born in kibbutz. This is also wonderful for a newborn country on ancestral land.

- It's our national dances, like the waltz is theirs, it's clear... believe me I would like to go back to the times when we met young people of our own age to dance the dance and sing the songs of Noemi Şemer. Today, things have changed in our country as well.

- Do I understand that you miss your youth?

- It's not just nostalgia in the middle. The beauty here overwhelms you, charms you, I admit; but... enough, I don't need more than two weeks of wandering among foreigners. As a tourist, everything is wonderful for you, until you feel... that you want "home"... a longing for your and mine corner, without the eyes of so many strangers. Even if they are very polite, very civilized.

- That's right, I understand you, but we have a few more days and I want to make full use of them. I promise you'll like it, and in fact it's only from here in Vienna that our shared memories of the wider world begin. Isn’t it, honey, it's just our first trip abroad!

- So what else do we have in the program for the next few days?, Ari asked resignedly,

- Tomorrow we visit the Staatsoper building, then we stay to see "Carmen".

- The day after tomorrow, we will visit the Jewish Quarter and have the Saturday lunch at the Community Restaurant. Ari smiled contentedly at the arrangement.

- Do you know how to get there?

- Honey, I got ready for this vacation, I mean, I did my homework. I know how to get to the neighborhood, and on the way we will see the Great Synagogue, built with the approval of Empress Maria Theresa. Agree? Well, how am I?

- As usual: "chamuda shells" (my dear ...)!

The evening at the opera was a beautiful dream. And I don't necessarily mean the show itself: I've seen "Carmen" many times in different productions performed by valuable singers. Tonight, however, exceeded all expectations.

We were particularly moved by the interior appearance, the modern refinement that did not give up the classic, initial lines. Everything is new in this building, even where you see the same rows of red velvet upholstered armchairs as before, the same lodges and balconies where they were “born”, even the place of that lodge in the center of the first floor, located opposite stage, and always reserved for the Kaiser Frantz Iosef and the imperial family. Everything is like in the old times, but at the same time totally renewed. Even the halls on all floors, renovated and smelling new and fresh, are enchantingly lit by the heavy crystal chandeliers and the red carpet unrolled from the entrance to the top, on the top floor. The walls are adorned everywhere with portraits of great artists who have honored the Viennese stage over decades. And on the first floor, in the most visible corner where all the spectators stand, sits the piano on which Mahler composed and played, on the wall above the piano is exposed the oil portrait of the great composer, who at the beginning of the twentieth century was the artistic director of the Vienna State Opera.

That unforgettable evening overwhelmed us both. We walked back to the hotel; we felt the need for a slow walk, to be silent together, to think about everything we saw and we were impressed by that evening. We went to bed early, because we had a lot of walking tomorrow. Before falling asleep, Ari said to me, sighing with thanks:

- Iulicika, you were right, it was worth it!

We woke up late in the morning, after 9 o'clock. It was a Sabbath morning, our last Sabbath in Vienna. Our plan was made: we go to the Temple and then have lunch at the Jewish restaurant for a kosher lunch. After we had breakfast at the hotel restaurant.

- People are weird, Ari says as he drinks his coffee. You and I are not religious at all. Only you light candles on Friday night, but I know why, you want to honor the habit your mother passed on to you. Instead, here, being abroad, we feel the need to go to a temple on the Sabbath, to look for Jews. Who at home sometimes annoy you...

- Well, yes, you didn't know, abroad Jews are much more united and support each other more than in the country, where they are together. Nonsense, isn't it? We drown in the inflation of political parties and groups with different opinions, we quarrel, we compete, I have no idea why we can't live together and in peace. Otherwise, we defend each other when needed and we want to live in peace and quiet. That's how we are! But today I don't want to think about such a thing; I'm in Vienna on my honeymoon. Right? Let's get going!

Slowly passing through the whole of Stephansplatz, we left the Great Cathedral behind, entering a new neighborhood, Schwedenplatz, advancing along the Danube quay. Ari asked me if we were on the right track, and I kept moving forward, confident in my memory and sense of direction. I only stopped for a moment to ask him if he had noticed any familiar odors.

Sure, he replied, stopping in turn. It's ... nothing but the smell of shwarma and falafel, just like in Tel Aviv. Where do these flavors come from?

From here, we are surrounded by kiosks and shops selling Arabic food and all the spices you can find home. This is the Arab quarter. Located in the immediate vicinity of the Jewish Quarter. Just like home. It is clear that destiny does not want to separate us.

Next there was a street built on a hill. The road climbed quite steeply, it was clear that in the past this part of the city was a suburb. I tried to move forward, it was a bit difficult to climb "up the hill", but in the end it was worth it. I discovered the Great Synagogue, a two-story building with an entrance directly from the street, but because of the climb and the sloping terrain, the position of the building seemed a little strange. Again I remembered Maria Theresa, the wife of Emperor Josef and the mother of the unfortunate queen of France, Marie Antoinette. She approved the request of the Jews to build a house of worship, provided it was erected in a more secluded place; to be a modest construction so as not to bother on the inhabitants of Vienna. Despite all these "small flaws", the two of us were impressed by the importance of the existence of this place, which has remained intact since the 18th century, and until today, despite the many wars it went through, especially despite the destructive actions of the Nazis. A Synagogue remaining upright on a crooked hill looked like its people. The door was still unlocked, but inside the Sabbath prayer was over, and the parishioners had gone to have lunch at home. The last Jew present was Shamash, who stayed a few more moments to take one last look to make sure everything was in order before it was locked. However, we saw from the door the beauty of the interior, the altar, the closet with the holy scrolls. Clean, tidy, good taste ... too bad we were late for prayer. The Shamash looked at us politely for a moment, then showed us the keys as a sign that he was hurrying to lunch. However, he asked us in a Germanized Yiddish, who we were, Jewish tourists, or maybe some tourists willing to visit the Synagogue. I, the family's spokesperson, replied in the same Yiddish language as his own that we were Israeli tourists and were sorry for being late. Here Ari interrupted me, asking me to ask the man for directions to the restaurant. I did not manage to repeat my husband's words, because the gentleman in front of us jumped to hug him, overwhelming us with a flood of words in the most correct way. In short, he lived in Israel in his youth, served in Zahal, after which he was called by some wealthy relatives from Vienna, offering him a job. Then they also married him and what's more, he got stuck in foreign lands. Now where to leave with a wife and three children and a rich house?

He kindly offered to take us to the restaurant, where he would go anyway to hand over the keys to the volunteer Shamash this afternoon. This Temple is served in rotation by volunteers. The three of us started, still climbing, until which we finally reached the square at the top of the hill, where the kosher restaurant building was. Before entering, our companion stopped to introduce himself, with his hand outstretched to Ari: Eliezer Weiss, a jeweler. As Ari introduced himself and me, Eliezer quickly slipped a business card with the address of his jewelry store. I imagine it wasn’t right to talk about business on the Sabbath.

When we entered, there was a sudden silence and a few dozen pairs of eyes turned to us. Eliezer took us straight to Mr. Rabbi, told him that we were the Braun family, tourists from Israel, that we wanted to meet Jews from Vienna and have a kosher lunch with them. The rabbi stood up, holding out his hand to Ari, greeting me with a kind nod, and this time Ari said his name and title, leaving modesty aside. The rabbi in turn made a sign to the other diners, informing them that today they had dear guests from the Holy Land, the family of Dr. Aharon Braun and his wife Yael, who would have lunch with them. In a few moments we were actually invaded by all those present, each one had a place for us, we were invited from all directions and we no longer knew how to join them without upsetting anyone. Eventually the rabbi decided, who ordered another table
for the Israelis to be brought to his table, and the people calmed down and we finally sat down for lunch. I especially enjoyed resting my feet before enjoying the dishes. We were attracted to conversations of all kinds, almost everyone was fluent in Hebrew, especially the interest in the situation in the country was very high. Questions flew in our direction from all directions, as if we were at a press conference. They wanted to know everything: about the situation in Lebanon, about the talks with Hezbollah in the North, the war in Gaza, about djihad, Daish, our rufians, and in conclusion, how do we Israelis cope with this constant tension.

- We live, Ari replied; we work, raise children, sometimes we lose them in war and we go through real human tragedies. The next day we get up and go to work, on Friday-Saturday we celebrate with the family or we go to Tveria or another place, after which we start again. One day we bury a citizen killed on the street by a terrorist, the next day we go to a symphony concert or the theater. That's about our life. We don't let ourselves down.

- And yet you resist...

- We have been resisting for thousands of years, we have all had the same destiny. And as for Gaza and the surrounding Arabs, we certainly have serious problems with them. You see, in a marriage both spouses have to give up something of their personality in favor of the other so that the household does not fall apart. Something similar happens in our country, we break up because no part gives up. Stubbornness, fear of others, lack of trust and understanding of each other's position, all together give rise to mutual hatred. Add the economic and political interests of some politicians, who ignite the flame of hatred instead of extinguishing it.

- I still don't understand how you live and resist.

This is where I spoke, this time in German and not in Hebrew. For those who do not know how to drink or do not want to understand us to understand well.

- There is a way to fully understand everything we feel in the extreme situations we go through: to move to Israel for one year and live in the same rhythm of life with us. Things are seen completely differently from Austria, Switzerland or Sweden. Believe me, only from within can one feel the situation and judge correctly. Maybe even then you still can't see all the aspects. What we tell you at a festive meal you can hear and watch on TV news. But you don't feel them! And if it comes down to it, can I ask you a question too? I would be interested to know how you, Israeli Jews or Austrian Jews, feel when you walk down a street and come across a group of anti-Semitic demonstrators shouting slogans and burning the Israeli flag. We would feel awful to see such a thing right in the center of world civilization. What about you? I imagine you get out of the way quickly or walk into a store. But sometimes it occurs to you that there was once something similar around here, and your parents were the ones targeted, or your grandparents...?

After that there was silence, no one tried to give a reply; only the arrival of the desert revived the atmosphere. Until we left, they praised the mild climate in Israel, the beauty of the coast, the quality of the hotels, etc., and we, Ari and I, expressed our delight at everything we saw in Vienna, in our opinion, the most wonderful European city. We parted as good friends and exchanged business cards. Ari ran out of all his, I didn't take any out of my purse. Does a woman have to have a business card?

We returned satisfied after this Sabbath day. We spent the evening at the hotel restaurant, listening to Strauss's waltzes again. Eventually, however, Ari invited me to a dance. He didn’t dance badly at all.

Even on the last day before we left, we did not give up our wanderings; I still had some plans. And I set poor Ari in motion, tired of my busy schedule.

- Come on, honey, we'll rest at home until you're full." And today, we will travel by tram part of the ride. Otherwise how will we get to Grunzig?

My beloved looked at me in horror:

- Are we leaving Vienna?

- No, of course we don't venture far." Grunzig is..., let’s say, a slightly more remote suburb. But the tram takes us back and forth.

However, I did not add that until we get on the tram we had to walk for almost an hour, and on the way we would see the Parliament building, then the City Hall surrounded by a large amusement park and still, with a little luck, we could also see Sigmunt Freud's house. About all I carefully read the brochures a year before our trip.

As I imagined, Ari was just pampering himself, in reality he was very interested in everything we saw on the road and filmed everything tirelessly. We reached Grunzig near dusk. The lights of the lanterns all lit up, giving the town an archaic look. They were lit by electricity, but being hung on poles as in the past, it made us feel again how time stood still. Like the old buildings built horizontally at the bottom of deep courtyards. The gates were wide open waiting for guests, who kept coming at nightfall. They occupied the unpainted wooden benches stretched out along the long tables, also made of wood, just like a few centuries ago. Guests were given a pint of beer and helped themselves from huge trays filled to the brim with pieces of grilled meat and baked potatoes. We walked from gate to gate until Ari wanted us to sit down at a table. As we entered the courtyard we noticed that the guests took turns, until two vacancies were for us as well. Immediately the master of the house appeared with two beers, showing the plate of food.

- Bitte!, that is, help yourself. I took a huge potato smelling of embers, drank the cold beer, and we thought it was the best feast.

Ari asked me in a whisper:

- Is this potato for both of us?

I also put a potato on his plate so that he would understand that I could handle mine on my own. I laughed and smashed my mugs.

- The haim!

- Congratulations!

- This place is wonderful, ancient, romantic, it's like a beautiful dream. Now I understand why you wanted us to come here.

There is another reason. I thought I'd be able to guess which table Franz Schubert once sat at, when he came every night to eat a free meal, which he paid for by composing a lied for the host. You know that only a few years ago a brewer from Grunzig found in the cellar a lot of sheets containing lyrics and musical notes. They were authenticated by specialists as belonging to Schubert and printed in a collection of lieds.

I don't think Schubert dined in just one pub. Too bad we didn't start our walks with this charming place. But we will come back next time. Wherever we go, I will try to stop on our way to Vienna. At least for 2-3 days.

I gave Ari a grateful look. I knew his promise weighed a ton.

- My dear, thank you for giving me this holiday. Everything was wonderful, and you were the most wonderful. Now let's go. At 9 o'clock a tram passes to Vienna. Don't forget we're flying home tomorrow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter VI

 

TO THE END

 

 

Home again, how good! You don't feel like home anywhere. After only two weeks of absence from home our home seemed more spacious, and the comfort we had between these walls did not compare to that offered by elegant hotels even without the service received from the most stylish
butlers of the "posh world". We quickly returned to the privacy of the rooms, the bedroom, the simple meals served in our kitchen, dressed in indoor clothes and slippers. However, all these domestic pleasures did not exclude the joys and pleasures that visiting Vienna offered us. A few weeks followed when we reviewed everything we had seen there, in the beautiful places, remembering everything that had enchanted us; I took out the photos once again to review the
details, and each time I concluded with the same conclusion that “it was worth it! Of course, we also had many opportunities to joke, as for example Ari addressed me with “esteemed madam” whenever he expressed a request, and I would say to him “the gentleman is served” or ...“always at your disposal” when I called him to dinner ... or to bed.

Of course, friends were also informed. At least I didn't stop with the story for days after my return to work, when I gave real lectures during every break. Until I made a decision with Ari: check out the video that covers our entire trip and if it's okay, we'll make an invitation to friends for a festive evening. Said and done. On Saturday night, three cars were parked in our yard and three more on the street, next to the fence that belongs to our property. We invited Dr. Segal and his wife, Tomer and his wife, Dr. Tomer, Ari's assistant and the man of the house, Ella, my secretary with her husband and son Sai, a medical student, my boss Ben David, a friend and eternal rival at the same time, Dana the accountant and Ben David 's assistant. There were ten people, five cars besides Ari's car. We invited them into the double living room born from the two "armored" rooms. There was enough space for everyone, comfortable sofas and armchairs. I put an extensible table next to a wall, on which I arranged spicy appetizers that did not lack butter spreads, garnished with either caviar or salmon slices. Ari put the right wine next to it. From a corner of the room a discrete music emits a part of the "Moonlight Sonata". The guests were impressed by this reception, because the invitation sounded: “for a coffee and watching the video from Vienna”. We sat near the table, but each of us had perfect visibility to the screen of a large TV. Because the guests were eager to see Vienna, Ari turned on the camera and suddenly the central streets of the big city lit up, the image stopping at the entrance to the “Der Adler” (Eagle) hotel.

- We stayed here; now you will see the interiors.

Pictures, pictures, no sound: the entrance to the lobby, the walls, the painted ceiling, the elegant climb up the red-wrapped stairs... Our explanations were often overshadowed by enthusiastic exclamations from guests. And questions over questions. However, we also had the sound open on two occasions: in the Jewish quarter, when my explanations about the history of the Temple built during the time of Mary Theresa and the meeting with the shamash - former Israeli, could be heard, and then the discussions at the festive table from kosher restaurant. This discussion with the Viennese Jews was particularly pleasing to our guests, especially the way we responded to them. They continued to talk about this subject, expressing their opinions a bit later, when we sat down to eat. But in our movie the sound stopped, which did not bother anyone, because the beauty of the images spoke for itself. Towards the end the sound of the street, of the tram to Grunzig was heard again, and at last my words about Schubert and his wonderful lieds with which he paid for his dinner were clearly distinguished. Everything else, beautiful images, as if we had cut out photos from postcards to introduce into our film. When it was over and the screen went dark, the guests applauded us... Because we managed to make such a beautiful movie, sharing with them the joys that delighted our eye and soul, as you share everything with close friends.

In the meantime, I managed to sneak out of the living room to bring a tray loaded with stuffed cabbage, kept warm for the moment.

- My job as a good host is to delight your stomach now. I wanted to surprise you with a veal
aspic, or "ghefilte fis" but Ari stopped me. She said that these are delicacies intended exclusively for the husband... So, please have some stuffed cabbage.

They applauded again, this time for the wisdom of the master of the house, and after the disappearance of the last stuffed cabbage roll, I received all the applause.

I brought more coffee and ice cream, then I stayed to chat until midnight. We talked about holidays, each talking about where they were in recent years, what impressions they returned with. Sai, Ella's son, said about us, we made a "scientific" trip - because we caught the most interesting and beautiful points of the city, observing them "under a magnifying glass". And Ben David added:

- Especially in no image I saw traces of the store where tourists are crowded. You really didn't buy anything?

What do they have and we don’t? Maybe the goods are more expensive in our stores, but to ruin the pleasures of such a holiday, to return with full suitcases?!

There was a lot of talk about the political situation, the guests told us what else happened in our absence, and from us they found out what anti-Israeli demonstrations we saw there... And especially, how we felt in those moments.

- Just like our parents in the 1930s. I don't know why history always repeats itself against the Jews, or not only, but all the people who want to live their lives in peace!

- Just peace, that's all I want, Ella said. Last summer we were at war; God forbid, we're just getting back into summer. Our Sai was conscripted for two months... he also was in Aza. I want to be November.

- There will be no war, rest assured!, Dana also spoke. I have my signs; "They" test our nerves: when they throw stones, they do not fire missiles. Now they started with stones and knives, so as not to forget their existence. I've never seen people who want to die. Is it normal not to value your own life? Some young men who throw stones and think they are heroes or saints!

No kidding with such things! And stones kill too, we have this experience...

I turned my head, Ari said the last sentence; Ari is always right: the stones kill too...

The guests left after midnight. Before getting in the car, Ben David asked out loud whose birthday was that we celebrated so beautifully? He didn't even know Yael knew how to cook, so... did an event happen?

- No! And find out that I know how to cook! I invited you all to bribe you: I will go on trips, and you will work in my place... Ella, the boss, Dana... So you deserve it, don't you?

- No, come on... Enjoy, said the boss. And you, Iulia Braun, I must inform you that a table full of work is waiting for you. We do not let ourselves be bribed! Tomorrow, get to work!

After that he started the car, pulling his hand out the window for the last greeting.

Since then, time has resumed its normal course. We were both pretty busy, me at my service, Ari with the patients. He worked part-time at the City Hall dispensary, and the rest of the time he received patients in the private practice. When there were surgeries, Dr. Tomer Levy also came to help. He was often called to the old farm near Kfar Saba to relieve the young doctor employed in his place. But only when serious cases arose. It once occurred to me to ask Ari if he was passing through the Arab villages on the way to the old farm.

- Sure, he replied, sometimes I stop to lend a helping hand. And those people make a living from raising cattle. Their cows and sheep sometimes get sick too, or have trouble with complicated births. However, their doctor does not cope with such situations. Someone has to help the poor animals. And the villagers are very grateful and respect me.

- God, protect him from evil! I exclaimed, swallowing my tears. I knew that whatever I said I would not to stop Ari from rescuing a "patient." He approached me to stroke my cheeks. Then he said in his softest voice:

- Silly, you don't have to be scared, there are people everywhere, and the cows have no nationality, they are not Jews or Arabs, but only helpless beings who need help. And their masters will never hurt me, they love me and are grateful that I come to them when they are in need. They don't have other doctors in those places.

That ended the conversation, which I never dared to reopen, although I lived in panic whenever Ari told me he was leaving for old farm. But I knew I had to accept the situation as it was, because that was his life. Otherwise we continued to live happily in our home. We still had time to go for a walk or a show. I bought a subscription to the theater and enjoyed some excellent shows at Habima. Ari was delighted to invite me to a restaurant after the performance, his preference remaining the Italian one on Rotschild Blvd. Because, I think, we also listened to Italian songs, known from my youth at the San Remo festivals. I didn't care where I dined, since I was with him. And at home it was just as good, I liked to sit at the table only the two of us, where we didn't miss anything. But here, we often entered this place together, especially in the afternoons when I was working late and Ari was waiting for me by car in front of the institution. In the end, I called it "our restaurant" with "musical" recipes. We once went out with a group of friends for a weekend in Eilat. Only Ella's son was missing, who, as she said, was conscripted; but I think it was more normal for the boy to spend his free time with young people. At one point, when we were talking to Ella about our children, I made discreet allusions to how we must give them all the freedom to enjoy their youth; so the children remain ours forever.

- You mean I shouldn’t keep Sai close to me? It seems to me that I never have enough time with him.

- Ellocica, it's time to resign: Sai is a big boy, has his personal life, and you will always be his mother. Listen to me, I am an experienced "ima"!

But leaving aside the "educational" parenthesis, the days in Eilat were very pleasant and thanks to the nice, cheerful, malleable friends, who accepted in one voice any proposal of fun, without contradictions, no matter who made it. Thus, we had a complete relaxation in a charming place. Only I felt a little strange, close to fear, when we went down to visit the underwater aquarium. I did not admit to anyone that I live with fear of water, but in the end I managed to overcome myself and not spoil the mood of my friends. When Ben David proposed to have lunch right down there, watching the underwater creatures, Ari, knowing my phobia, promptly intervened, saying:

- I'm sorry, but we announced that we would have lunch at the hotel restaurant; it can no longer be canceled.

We finally came to the surface, delighted with what we saw. In fact, that aquarium is really wonderful.

All the way to the hotel, Ari held my hand. He didn't ask me anything, but I'm sure he understood that I didn't feel very well deep sea. We both went through this incident in silence.

At the beginning of August, we took a "Zimer" to Galil, just for the two of us. We started walking to Țfat – a charming medieval town that has remained intact since ancient times, and on the way back we stopped for two hours in the beautiful town of Carmiel. We could have stayed longer, but Ari had another plan: to walk for a while in the Druze villages. Ari was right that from everything we saw in the North, this was the most interesting walk for me. For the first visit, everything seemed special, unique, both the settlements and the welcoming people who invited tourists to eat or buy something from them. I tasted the finest hummus salad in hot pita, and very sweet cakes, stuffed with nuts and drowned in honey. I also bought things: I chose a cauldron and wooden spoons, a whole set for ridiculous prices. And Ari chose from a yard some seedlings of different plants and flowers, - I am not good at these -, which gave him a lot of work in the sunny, warm days of September. But he enjoyed working in the garden, planting them in the back of the house, near the windows that surrounded the ground floor.

- When these little trees and the flowers planted now bloom, we'll have some fragrances of paradise in every room. Obviously it needs care, but I'll take care of it; you will only have to smell them, because I bought them for you.

- I'm starting to ... feel from now on; you know that the smell of fresh grass is a Gan Eden...

 

*

 

The autumn holidays and a rainy winter followed. Although the Israeli winter is just a "parody" of European winters, we still heat the rooms and sleep under the duvet.

The calendar indicating "December, January, February" had to be followed. Therefore, we behave as if we should have in the winter months. I also bought a pair of light, very comfortable boots, and I wore them ... three times during the winter. Then the soil dried up, and the smell of spring was already in the air. Ari began to check his "plantations": the trees grew a little, but not enough yet to bloom.

- Next year, the first flowers will bloom, for sure! In exchange flowerbeds already started showing signs of a blooming, he explains to me happy as a child.

One day, returning from work, I was greeted at the entrance by a cheerful bark and some
acrobatic jumps. I thought a patient had slipped from the office to our home. But I was wrong, it was a gift to me. A client who had three cute creatures at home like my invader begged Ari to take one as a gift from him. Because Ari avoids receiving anything that would be called a "gift" vehemently refused; at the insistence of the puppies’ owner, he finally accepted, but on the condition that he vaccinates all three puppies without money, and the gift to be handed over to his wife. This way, a lively package arrived for “Mrs. Iulia Braun” through a commissioner, very dissatisfied with the bow that clung to its neck. By the time I got home, Ari had managed to remove its ribbon, give it a bath, and walk it around the rooms to familiarize it with its new home. He told me all this in one breath, stalking my face, to see if I was happy to have another family member. I didn't take it in my arms, but I leaned down to see it closely.

- Isn't he the same breed as Pufulet? I ask, as I stretched my right hand out to the puppy, a little bigger than a flea. And a miracle! It also raised its left paw with which it touched my hand. Then he continued to lick it, even trying to reach my face. It probably thought one can know a person better if it licked their face. I burst out laughing, stroked its ears and... accepted it. Although, when our Pufulet died, I said among the sobs that I would never take puppies again. But, I never refuse the gifts brought by Ari, I am not able to ruin his joys and disappoint him. So I said:

- Okay, now I want details about this ... “person”: how old it is, what education it received in terms of respecting cleanliness in the house and especially, what is its name.

Ari laughed at my questions:

- His name is Cuțu, has been my patient for a year and a half and he has a good education. So he will come to you to ask you to let him go in the yard. And he eats everything, that is, what we eat, although I don't think that's good. If you want, I'll teach him to eat bonzo.

- I don’t! Let him dine with us, as he should. But the name of Cuțu is not very nice. Why not Pufi-Pufulet?

- It's a little difficult after a year and a half, Ari said. The boy is already old, he's used to his name. But if you like it, I'll try. Today we start calling him "Pufi".

In the end, it stayed that way. We succeeded faster than we expected. Pufi was a very smart puppy! We got used to his presence and fell in love with him. He was a family member we cared for as a child. And he rewarded us with love, but he could not express it in words. Too bad!

Several times a week we talked in the evening via skype with our boys in America.

They were both fine, which made us happy. All the more we enjoyd the friendship that linked Dani and Uri for years. I can't remember the occasion when they got on the phone, then they started meeting from time to time for coffee, or even for lunch during the breaks between 12 and 13. And they liked each other so much, that they introduced themselves as "brothers". And why not? Ari and I laid the foundations of a family, and our young people grew up alone, Dani without a father, and Uri without a mother. Today they both live in New York, but they know that a large common house and two parents are waiting for them in Tel Aviv. For some time now, Dani has also been invited to Uri's house for the holidays or on the Sabbath evenings. I was very happy that my son was no longer alone, although he always told stories about good colleagues and students who loved him. However, family is something else, much more than good relationships at work.

One evening, Dani told me that he would come home. He and Uri decided to surprise us both together. But they fail to give themselves time to be available at the same time.

- For several months now, I have been waiting for Uri to be released from his obligations. But I see that he is having a hard time, he has problems at work, he is at home with the little ones. When a kid gets sick, he can't leave his wife alone with all the problems. So I kept postponing until I told Uri I was leaving alone. And on another auspicious occasion, he will come to see you. I've known for a long time that he misses his father and I understand him, but I can't wait. So I already ordered the ticket for Saturday night. I still have time to let you know about the arrival time and flight number.

I was melted with joy, and from that moment I counted the days and hours until Sunday evening. I picked up Dani from the airport, and I didn't stop talking until we got home. It wasn't until we sat down at the table that I realized I hadn't asked him anything about him yet. We definitely haven't seen each other in a long time, about 6 years! God, how did I resist? Due to the presence of Ari, of course, but perhaps modern technology also contributed, such as telephone, internet and e-mail, skype calls that gave us the opportunity to see each other... That's why I survived without my son. Only now do I realize how much I missed him.

I served the festive meal in my beautiful and spacious kitchen. And before long the three of us were sitting here, around the same table, telling stories of the day that had passed. Why not now? It was just us, the family. I prepared all the goodies I know Dani likes. I couldn't eat, I just had to sit and watch him: my baby came back. He flew as far as he had to free himself, and finally returned to his mother. In fact, Ari said this on the day we parted, when I was so sad. But I admit Ari is always right. When we moved into the living room, we again insisted that Dani told us about his life in America.

- I think I told you all about talking on the phone or on skype. Otherwise ordinary events from the department. I love teaching, I also have good students... But now something special came up for me: I received an invitation from Tel Aviv University, to accept a course for two semesters plus a few hours in research. The proposal attracted me, especially since it means for me a return home, where it is best. But I'm not making any plans yet. I will pay a visit on the spot, to see with my own eyes what is offered to me in concrete terms, if the arrangement is convenient for both parties, and in the end I will consult with you as well. It is a serious decision, because I have an excellent situation in New York and I will resign from there, if I accept this position, in Ramat Aviv.

That's how we kept talking for half a night about his problems, about ours in the country, we also asked questions about Uri's life. We were especially interested in finding out about his family, which we didn't know yet. Dani, on the other hand, was very reserved and stingy with the answers.

- I know that I am very well received for holidays and the whole family is hospitable and nice to me. I don't know more than that, because I see them quite rarely, at a festivity and that's it. Uri will come soon, and you will learn more details from him. Maybe even next week. It is possible that I will meet him here again and return together. Depends...

- I don't understand, what does it depend on? Are you free, on vacation, or...

- We're just on vacation between semesters. I chose this moment to come and see you, to be with you, without rushing. Then the proposal came from Tel Aviv and I thought, all the better, I have the opportunity to avoid making a hasty decision. Maybe something good is coming out of here. After solving the problem with the job, including all the details, I would like to take a walk around the country, to see some dear places again.

- For example, what attracts you?, I ask suspiciously. Dani doesn't react to the vague allusion about Iavne, Ashdod..? No, he continues serenely:

- Let's say I start with a visit to Jerusalem first. We go to the Wall, visit the old quarter, the new building of the Court, where I have not been yet. You will not understand how for Jews living abroad, even temporarily, the importance and charm of Jerusalem grows, the city becoming for them the Center of the World. I'm not inventing anything, it’s how I told you. When I lived in the country, I visited the capital only on school trips, or very rarely to attend youth gatherings. But it was not the Symbol of the Nation as we feel it there, abroad. I talked to Uri about it, then to young Israeli students, who told me the same thing.

- Dani, I say take care of your university business first, Ari said this time. If things go well and you return home, you will keep visiting all the sightseeing according to your heart's desire. You have your whole life ahead of you.

Dani looked at him in astonishment. He did not understand why he had to leave for the future the visit of Jerusalem, so close to Tel Aviv, but also the most important tourist spot in the country

- I thought you wanted to come too, to accompany me, to spend a beautiful day together. I don't understand, Aba, why do you think we can't leave next week. Maybe on Sunday, when there are many tourists, we can join to visit an archeological museum, where we have never been before!

I listened to the discussion until I thought we were dragging it on and there were too many words. I also joined the discussion to draw the final line:

- My dear, you don't see all the news in America, haven't you heard what's going on in Israel? Look, in case you don't know, I'm telling you that now it is not the time to walk through Jerusalem. Bad things happen everywhere, but especially there. For several months we have been in a state of “mini-war” with street fighting, police intervention, casualties, really victims among innocent civilians who find themselves with a knife in the back or a stone in the head. There were already enough dead and wounded. At the entrance gates to the Wall, or worse, deadly gunfire on cars on the roads. I am sure that from the first week you will see it for yourself. You have all the TVs in the house at your disposal, one works in your bedroom as well. Ari is a subscriber to "Maariv" and "Haaretz" so we also provide you with documentary material. In a few days you will see clearer. But you know how it is with us, how we live... there are times and time. After a while, some temporary solutions are found and things calm down. So, our trips are only postponed, but not canceled. And now, go to bed! Tomorrow is another day...

We got up and led Dani upstairs, where his bedroom was ready. Going up the few steps Dani wanted to talk, to ask more questions.

- When will a permanent solution be found, however, not a temporary one for this ugly situation? Is there such a thing, what do you say, Aba? What must be done to live in peace for once?

- Hard question, son. If it were up to me, I would abolish all political institutions both in our country and in their neighbors. Then, we would start from scratch to rebuild our lives from the beginning. It's going to be better the second time... Will it?

This is how our son came back into our lives again, even if only temporarily. I was happy to see him around me all the time, to make him coffee and breakfast, and then to force my memory to remember how much he liked me to pamper him. After work we went out for a walk in the beautiful places of Tel Aviv, which he liked since childhood, others born in recent years, which he did not yet know, and we were eager to show him. In the mornings, each of us took care of our daily chores: me at work, Ari at the dispensary and then in the office, if they were patients, and Dani went to the University almost every day. He told us that he had concluded the official agreement with the superiors who actually invited him, and now the visits were intended to get to know or recognize the places and meet many people with whom he once had good relations. They also took him to visit the laboratories, which was important for his future activity.

One evening the three of us sat down for dinner at our "music restaurant" on Rothschild. We felt very good, we ate, we listened to songs from another time, we talked about one or the other. At one point I wanted to ask Dani what specialty he would teach in the coming semesters and what the research in which he was involved did. Suddenly there was silence at our table. I was just listening to the music and the sound of the forks. Dani continued to eat, not reacting to my question, as if he hadn't even heard me. I was surprised, but I didn't return to the question. Only Ari knew how to cover up my boy's embarrassing silence with a joke:

- You, Yulicika, never told me how and in what you invested the millions you handle every day... on paper. Only I am the most open man, without secrets. Just ask what you care about my patients and that's it, I'll tell you everything.             

- Now I remembered what I wanted to tell you for two days, but I was always forgetting ... Dani joined us. Do you remember Ira?

- What a question is that! She was your girlfriend for quite some time, if I'm not mistaken. Didn't you live with Ira in Iavne? So, what's up with her, did you find out anything?

- Well, yes... we met at the university. She comes there quite often to meet the professor, her doctoral supervisor. I talked the other day over coffee.

- So what is she doing besides her doctorate?, I continue with the questions.

- She's fine, as beautiful as I knew her, friendly and calm as usual. We talked a lot about our lives from all the years we haven’t seen each other and the coffee became lunch. In short, she lives in Ashdod with her parents, who help her raise the child. She has a 5-year-old boy.

- What does her husband do?

- It doesn't matter ... they've been divorced for three years. Sometimes he sends some money for the child, he rarely comes in for half an hour to see him. He is about to move to Germany, and Ira is not opposed to that.

- I mean, she has no alimony claims, but she wants him to not to bother her with his presence, not to irritate the boy who starts asking questions...

Ari broke the silence that followed Dani's revelations.

- But what about your life? Do you have a girlfriend in New York, are you connected to anyone? If you don't want to, you may not answer this question.

- It’s ok, I have no secrets about this from my parents. The truth is, I don't have anyone right now. There were a few attempts to start a connection, but it didn't work, I stopped before creating obligations. It just didn't work.

- Of course, I say, I understand you, darling, very well. Where love is lacking, it does not work To start a true life in two requires a true feeling, not surrogates.             

As I spoke to my son, I shook Ari's hand. And he answered with understanding with the same handshake. At home, before falling asleep, we both continued to talk about the happy event that mediated that meeting between Dani and Ira.

- Let some time pass until we find out how things are going between them. In any case, before Dani leaves, you must ask him to invite Ira to our place on a Sabbath table on a Friday night. I really want to keep in touch with the girl in Dani's absence. Often fate also needs a little help, what do you say, Yaeli?

- I say you're always right!"

Then we fell asleep, that's probably where our nightly conversation ended. But the decision remained valid.

Two days later Dani received from "brother Uri" a text message to announce his arrival that evening, by the same plane with which he traveled. Ari decided he would go to the airport alone, and we didn't try to contradict him. I liked it that Dani stayed home to help me with my preparations, because I was in a time crisis and there was a lot to do. So Dani prepared the second bedroom upstairs, tidied up his room and the shared bathroom for both bedrooms. During this time, I prepared a rich and tasty dinner in honor of the guest. Then we waited for them in the living room in the large lobby at the entrance. They entered the house at about 9 pm. I suddenly saw in the doorway two handsome men, copied in the same pattern: tall, presentable, with distinguished features, both shining with a joy springing from the depths of their hearts. One might think that they are twin brothers, if the age difference between them had not been noticed nearby. Instead, one could see from a distance the happiness of reuniting after such long time. Uri, whom his father lovingly called "Ori" - my light, was like his brown father, he had the same eyes of indefinite color, between green and gray, and a mysterious smile in the corner of his mouth, sometimes ironic, but always of a conquering charm. I approached to greet them, excited to tears. My soul ached for my lover, who did not know the joys that were due to him in the years when this wonderful child grew up, turning into a handsome man. Selfishness, shamelessness and the power of money have robbed him of this legitimate right in the most wonderful period, when teenagers turn into adults. So they both entered the living room, Uri approached me to hug me as if we had known each other for a long time and we parted only an hour ago. He kissed me on the top of my head, just as his father often did. Then he stepped away a little, looked me straight in the eye, and said: Imale! Over my head he saw Dani, waving his hand at him, speaking directly, as if continuing a sentence that had just begun.

- I sat in the armchair for so many hours that I would like some physical work now. Isn't there anything for me here?

- Of course, I say. First you go up to your room with Dani, unpack your things and take a shower. After that you will have an appetite, I am convinced. Come on, go up! The table is set.

- Small, fast and dominant! Daddy, you’re in trouble!

- It's okay, kid, I can handle it. I did it to myself, so I’ll be patient for about 30 years!

And so we spent the evening joking and laughing happily while the plates emptied. No serious discussion was approached, I barely managed to slip in a few questions about Uri's children and obviously about his wife.

- You will know everyone, the time will come for a meeting.

- If you think the right time will come after things calm down here, I'm afraid we won't have a chance to meet too soon. Not during my lifetime. The terrorist attacks of recent months are a very old story, they started a long time ago and no one can predict when the end will come. I don't see the end of it. Doesn't the West seem threatened? But the dimensions of the Islamic danger are not yet understood there; until the day when "they get it" and they will see that we are all in the same situation. But, let's leave my pessimistic predictions for another time. Today we also have a good day, we are with our boys, let’s enjoy the moment, without other thoughts. There hasn't been so much joy in our house in a long time. We have a good "Zichron Yakov" wine - I suggest we drink it. Does anyone object? Not?! Good...

We went to bed very late that night. Ari was in the ninth heaven. In the privacy of the bedroom I could barely talk about the evening just ended. Ari told me about the reunion with his son.

- Listen, this boy of mine was mad with fear that I was mad at him, that he would never get
my forgiveness. The first time we hugged, he began begging me to forgive him for his “unworthy behavior” when he left me. Until I started the car, he kept giving me explanations, which later continued with a confession: he regrets the suffering caused to me, but also to his own person. Today he knows that he would have been much happier if he had not been seduced by his mother's promises and stayed at home with me.

I would have finished high school, served in the military with my friends, and found love with one of our girls. With or without a doctorate, but I would have been fine, I would have felt at ease. Instead, I grew up there without a family; my mother took care of her life, and she arranged me in a very good college, with boarding school, paid for my studies, then found me a nice bride from a family with a lot of money, religious, where everybody directs me, because I am forced to live with my whole family in a huge and ... foreign house. More than once I begged my wife Sara to escape to a more modest home, which would be our home. But she does not want to be separated: this is their habit, to live together. Brothers and sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, grandchildren, when we sit at the table or in the morning prayer, there can be up to 20 people. Sometimes I forget their names.

- These are all Uri's words, I told you, for you to understand the situation. He told me all this in one breath from the airport here. And he always stopped talking to repeat how sorry he was for breaking up with me, and to tell him if I could ever forgive him. And I repeated I was never angry with him for a moment, and I never stopped loving him. For him to understand that parents love their children unconditionally, and there is no anger in the relationship between children and parents. Did you notice how relaxed he was then during the meal? It was as if a weight had fallen off his shoulders. Now what would you have done about his unhappy family situation?

- You asked me a very difficult question. There are children in the middle, don't forget the children. The only thing he could try would be to force his wife's hand a little. How? Obviously not with quarrels. But let's say one day Uri gets a job somewhere else in another city. There he rents a comfortable apartment for Sara and the children and puts her in front of an accomplished fact. Let's see who the lady will choose, the parents or the husband and the peace of the children. I gave you an idea, maybe you can find something more suitable. In any case, there is no hurry, you have all the
time to talk to him, walk in the mornings and I am convinced that the boy will open up to you. By the end you'll both find a solution.

The next day I left for work early. I left breakfast and coffee cups on the kitchen table. I knew Dani would go to Ramat Aviv, meaning that Ari was free to take his son for a walk. And talk. Maybe in the end he will be able to help him make a good decision for everyone. That is, for him personally, but also for Sara and the children.

In the evening I learned about the beautiful day the son and father had spent together. Hearing the story from Uri's mouth, I understood how wonderful our city is in the eyes of some visitors, especially one who was born here, but returns after a long absence. We here, being present when the new centers were born, the giant blocks with dozens of floors, the cultural places, all the changes unfolded before our eyes as something self-evident, without realizing the renewal of the city. Often the hectic life, the worries, the speed with which we live hide the essence. Instead, tourists who come for a few days have enough time to observe everything, to be aware of the change born in the places known in the past. This is what happened to Uri, and his father was surprised to see things unknown to him, the permanent Telavivian. He promised to take me to visit all the places worth admiring in our city:

- It's probably my fault that we don't go out to see the world more often; we stay in the house too long.

- Don’t bother, it is good at home, especially since you have done many useful things to arrange this house and especially the garden. And pay for everything. You worked hard for every little thing, and everything we have is due to your hands, doctor! We will have plenty of time to go for walks when we retire. We have to book some fun for that time too! But I remembered that you had not yet walked Uri through the garden to admire your plantations, nor had you shown him the other wing of the house. Am I right?

- Right, Yulicika, I'll show him everything. Maybe we'll catch Dani tomorrow morning, too, to do a "three-way tour of the whole" property. It's fairer that way, for both of them to see their future inheritance together...

Uri was embarrassed by this discussion:

- Why we are talking nonsense about inheritances, you two are people in full force and you still have decades before you.

- Okay, I answer smiling, we are not in a hurry anywhere, we were just talking about future times, but until then you two are our partners and you have all the rights to use the "property" in which there is far too much space only for two people. That's all, now could you tell me where Dani's been going so late? He hasn't had lunch or dinner yet. Come on, do you have any idea where he is?

- Ah... I have some information ... I have a text message on my phone: "Uri, let my mother know that she doesn't have to wait for me with the table set, I'll be late, have dinner with Ira, then I'll drive her home."

- Sure, I get it, that is, to Iavne. Old loves are not forgotten. If Dani doesn't come back tonight, then go for a walk without him tomorrow. I am happy, even very happy.

In the morning I found a message on my phone: “Imale, excuse me for yesterday's absence. It was too late to return from Iavne after I took Ira home. Tonight I will tell you more. Hugs, Dani”

The next morning, only I was ready to leave the house at 7 o'clock. The men were still asleep. It suddenly occurred to me to go back to the bedroom to see if Ari was feeling well. Maybe the long walk, but especially the joy of seeing his son again, tired him. I bent down to listen to his breathing, but it was calm, everything seemed normal. I also noticed a relaxed smile on his face, as if he was dreaming of something pleasant. I stroked his head lightly, carefully so as not to wake him, and left. I was already on my way to the door when I heard Ari's voice calling to me:

- Iulia Braun, you caress me just like I’m Pufi, that’s my portion for today? Come here and prove to me that I matter more than your favorite Pufisor.

I burst out laughing, turned, and bent down to kiss his whole face and eyes still closed.

- That's better, I'll pay my debt tonight, extra.

- All right, I say, still laughing. I thought you were still sleeping.

- I recognize you in my sleep. Now Ari looked at me with eyes wide open. Are you ready to leave? Did you call a taxi, or do you want me to take you?

- Stay in bed and rest as much as possible. My taxi just honked. I’ll run... after you let go of my hand.

Ari raised my hand to hold it to his cheek for a moment, then released me to leave.

- Take care of yourself.

- And you too. Have a nice day, both of you!

That was all. I shot out of the house so I wouldn't be late for work.

 

*

 

I didn't even sit on the chair and the phones started ringing. It was just annoying. I thought I wouldn't start working today. I had a lot of things to do, including first of all reading two files about a serious investment and making an urgent decision. I wouldn't mind consulting with Ben David for once, if I had a little peace of mind to find out about the situation myself first. Eventually I called Ella, asking her to answer for me. As a secretary, it was actually her role, but, she explained to me, all those she answers to insist on being transferred to me.

- And what if they insist, I shouted angrily, you just say that I'm not in the office, that I'm in a meeting, that I didn't get to work, think about other options, but I want to be left alone! Otherwise, by the end of the day, I will not be able to control and approve the transfer of money for salaries. Would you like the money not to go into your account?

- Ok, ok, I feel you! Only you are allowed to call me, just for something very special.

I put down the receiver and already regretted my outburst. Before leaving, I should apologize to her. After that, I spread the files all over the table, although first of all I took care of the salary lists. I finish here in half an hour at most, I thought, I don't even think about leaving people without money ten days before Easter. Indeed, everything was in perfect order, and in the next few minutes I signed up with the payroll for all the banks where our employees had accounts. Now I felt relieved, with my head calm, open to the most important task of the day, the investment. I read both files conscientiously, page by page, going back and forth to some paragraphs of the contract for more security. To make sure that my decision to give an affirmative verdict is correct, I told myself that the stakes were too high not to ask for Ben David's opinion. So I took all the documents under my arm and headed for the boss's office. Leaving the room, I noticed out of the corner of my eye the clock on the wall, and I said to myself, "Wow, time flies, it's already 1:30 p.m.” Ben David was busy too, but understanding what I meant, he asked me to leave the contracts, to take a look, and we’d talk by the end of the working hours. If he thinks it was an honest business, then we'll both sign on the spot. Agreeing with what he said, I calmed down, returning to my office. On the way I stopped at the door of the next room to ask Ella if she had time for a coffee.

- I have enough time to eat lunch, but you don't. Your son has been waiting for you impatiently in the car in front of the building for a few minutes and asked me to send you to him urgently.

- God, did something happen to him? Did he say something specific?

- He didn't tell me anything, but to go down immediately, to take your purse with you, because you have to go somewhere urgently.

I ran without listening to Ella say the last words. I pulled my huge bag off the hanger and was already on my way to the elevator. Passing by the secretariat door that was still open, I managed to shout:

- Ella, let the boss know I'm out. I'll call you later.

I met Dani at the entrance to the building, ready to come up. Without speaking, he pulled me toward the car, pushing me to the front seat. Dani took the driver's seat and started abruptly. I was so scared I couldn't get the words out of my mouth. That's all I managed to murmur so as not to speed on the city streets.

- We have to get to the hospital urgently, even if the police are after us.

- Who's in the hospital, I shouted suddenly, at the height of my panic. Speak once, what happened, to whom did it happen?

Dani was focused on driving fast, but avoiding accidents, so it was hard for him to follow the trail of thoughts, how to tell me and at the same time to protect me.

He slowed down only near the hospital, and then he said only a few words that did not explain to me: Aba and Uri were injured. I don't know the details.

- When I came home, there was no one left. I took a shower, changed my clothes, then I laid down on the living room couch to read the newspapers. Suddenly the phone rang, a unknown woman voice was looking for you. I asked what to tell you, I told her I was your son and I knew where to find you when I needed you. The answer was laconic:

- I am emergency nurse Ichilov, come immediately, your father and brother are in a post-traumatic condition following a terrorist attack. I don't know the details. And she hanged up.

I was shaking all over and I was so scared that I didn't know where I was.

- Ima, try to calm down. We have now entered the hospital gate, we are going directly to the emergency department. We'll find out more soon, we'll find them both. Maybe it's not that bad ... I hope...

The nurse at the reception desk immediately knew who we were asking about, she was very kind despite the crowds at this section. She briefly read us the notes from her hospitalization report. At 12:15, two patients were brought in with a "Maghen David Adom" car, which gave them first aid on the road from Raanana to Tel Aviv; gunfire was fired on their car, both passengers, namely Dr. Aharon Braun and his son Uri Braun, are injured. They have already had the first investigations, x-rays, S.T. and others will follow. Now they are both in the reserve no. 11 with two beds at the orthopedic surgery department on the 4th floor.

- You can visit them, the nurse concluded the discussion with us, addressing another person on the spot.

We ran to look for the elevator; I found a whole line going up and down. Eventually, after an “eternity” of about 5 minutes, we arrived at room no. 11. Despite all my efforts to control my trembling, I failed to behave like a normal person: when I saw them both in bed, bandaged, with an oxygen mask on their face, I burst into tears. Dani forcibly pulled me out, forcibly placed me in an armchair, and I don't know where he got a bottle of cold water, from which he forced me to drink.

- Mommy, please get a grip and be the same strong woman I've known forever. You hurt yourself, and more harm to the two patients. They rest, it's not worth it to suffer seeing you destroyed. So if you want to sit next to Ari, you will have to control yourself and help him recover and not despair. You hear me?

I shook my head, looked for a toilet to wash my face, combed my hair, then went out, I didn't see Dani, but I saw room 11 in front of me. I sat down on a chair next to Ari's bed, but I also had Uri in my sight. I didn't move from that place for two days and nights.

Dani returned immediately with a few bottles of mineral water. He told me that he managed to catch Dr. Segal on the phone, who promised to come to us as soon as he ended his shift. That is, around 4 pm. He knows Dr. Verbin, the chief surgeon of this department, well. Obviously he will learn from him details about the condition of Aba and Uri. Any time now...

Meanwhile Uri woke up; he recognized us immediately, smiled, which was a good sign. Dani gave him cold water to drink, then sat on his bed, waiting for him to recover. We also wanted to ask him a lot of questions, but we needed patience. Uri was also injured, and we still didn't know what his condition really was. We understood even less what was happening to Ari. He seemed to be asleep, lying on his back, the oxygen mask would have kept him from talking, even if he was awake. I held his free hand in my hand, and stroked it, hoping he would answer at least with a touch of his fingers. The other arm was tied to the IV drip. Dani kept moving from bed to bed. He came to us, looked at Ari intently, and kept asking me if I was feeling well, or if I had any sedative in my purse; it was obvious I would need it. But I wanted nothing but Ari, alive, whole, as I had left him that morning. What else could help me? I was feeling nothing, no headaches, no palpitations. It didn't matter to me. I was waiting for Dr. Segal, who was so late. It was past 6 pm, and I could see that from moment to moment on the huge clock hanging opposite the wall in the corridor.

At one point Uri took off his oxygen mask and asked for water. Dani held his bottle, I heard him ask how he was feeling.

- I feel good; get this mask out of here. I want to know what's wrong with my father, I just have a scratch on my arm.

Suddenly Uri began to cry:

- I threw myself at him to cover him with my body, so that the bullets would not touch him. But I wasn't fast enough, the bullet ran past my arm, and went into Aba's chest. I saw his blood and fainted. What life is like, we just found each other, and I'm already losing him! It would be monstrous. Tell me, what about Iulya, does she know the details?

Dani warned him with a touch of his hand and stepped aside:

- Look, she's here, she's guarding you both.

Then we looked into each other's eyes and we both burst into tears. I was crying and holding Ari's hand. From time to time I bent down to kiss his palm or finger after finger.

At one point I felt an answer, a handshake. I shouted:

- Guys, dad is awake, he hears us!

From that moment on, I started talking directly to Ari. I said a lot of things to him, I don't remember exactly what exactly, all the beautiful, caressing words came to my tongue that he always heard from me, words of love coming from the depths of my depths. Because I loved him very much and I would have loved to be in his place on this hospital bed. I suddenly remembered what my mother was telling me as a child and I repeated the "formula" in Yiddish, something like "let me suffer for you"! I never asked Ari if he understood the language of our parents, but I am convinced that at that moment he was conscious, because the handshake was stronger than before. I exclaimed, "He hears me, boys!", but the boys were nowhere. I figured Dani took Uri to the bathroom, and I turned my attention back to my husband. I think he was bothered by the oxygen mask too, so I moved it down a little under his chin. Then I saw him try to move his lips as his eyes opened and his gaze was directed towards me. I leaned as close to him as I could, just trying not to touch him so as not to cause him pain. But I heard him, he was whispering something just to me: Yaeli,... forgive me ... I ... I ... promised ... until ... the end ... no ... I want... At that moment Dr. Segal came in like a storm, pushed me aside to quickly put the oxygen mask in its place.

- What occurred to you, Yulia, to remove his oxygen mask, who allowed you?

- I allowed myself. The mask annoyed him, he rested for a few moments. And he's my husband, he was going to tell me something. Don't rush to me like that, I'm pretty desperate without you. We've been waiting for you for three hours, have you just found time to come to us?

- Sorry, Yulia, I was scared. Ari went through a serious injury, in addition to the bullet wound. Pray if you think it helps, but don't irritate him. He needs peace, we do everything in our power to save him. He was a very dear colleague, the whole department knows him. I don't even want him transferred to Cardiology, he doesn't have to be moved. And you go home to rest.

- I'm not moving from this place! If you say don't bother him, I'll stay calm. Am I allowed to hold his hand?

- Yes, it’s ok. It can only do him good. But don't cry, don't talk loudly, whisper to your sons.

- Where are they, because I haven't seen them in a while ...

- They’re in the dressing room. Uri is fine, now they’re changing his bandage, and tomorrow he will be released. You will be able to take turns...

- No turns, I will not leave my husband for a moment!

- As you wish. Now we have another patient from the Braun family.

- It doesn't matter, my whole life isn't worth a penny without him. Save him for me, Segal, do you hear? You're a friend, I beg you, try!

Dr. Segal looked at me for a moment, in wonder and pity.

- I'm Aharon's oldest friend." And yours. What you ask of me is impossible: I am a simple doctor, not God.

Then he left the room, and I was left alone with Ari and my thoughts and a huge pain that burned in my chest. It was quiet, Uri fell asleep, Dani went home to change and bring us some things for the night. I got up a little to wake up, or rather go to the bathroom. And I washed my face, tried to comb my hair, though it wasn't necessary, I forgot that I had tied my head with a wide strip of gray silk, with the thought of not letting any hair fall on Ari's bed. However, I took a moment to look at my face in the mirror and said to myself, "Who is this poor stranger behind me?" But it was just me, decomposed to the size of a transparent ghost. I was scared of myself and ran back to my chair by the bed. I grabbed Ari's hand again and continued to stand still, stroking his fingers and the back of his palm. Ari had fallen asleep again, but Uri woke up. He seemed more recovered, he got out of bed and he came to me. I motioned for him to pull the second chair next to me. Next we both sat down to watch the man we both loved the most. I was clenching my teeth, so as not to escape the sigh that was to remain in me... Uri always whispered to himself:

- What a paradox, Lord, to come right now, to lose him. Why did I leave, why didn't I stay with him?

He closed his eyes and tears welled up in the corners, bathing his face. I looked at him from time to time and felt sorry for the man-child next to me, who was now my son, like Dan. I was trying to calm him down:

- Ori, darling, don't bother so much, it's not your fault, that was your destiny and mine. You didn't do anything wrong.

- My father called me 'Ori' as a child, did you know?

- Sure, we both knew everything about each other. And the name "Ori" he always used, not only when you were a child. You were his light, his adored boy, his pride. Of course, he later fell in love with Dani, to calm his longing for you. Probably because Dani is my son.

- Were you talking about me? I hear Dani’s voice, who has just returned from home. We looked up at the clock, approaching midnight.

- I hurried as fast as I could, but I also had to do a few things at home. I fed Pufi, I washed the dishes from the morning, I ate something and made some sandwiches for you, a thermos with coffee and I gathered some warmer clothes for you two, I imagine it's cold when you stay motionless so long.

- Okay, you're good at everything; only I wouldn't know it was cold if you didn't remember that. Have you talked to a doctor again?

- Yes, I'm coming from Dr. Segal's office now. He asked to change shifts with someone to work in the night shift. He told me tonight is critical.

- How does he know? He hasn't been here since 6 p.m.

- He knows everything, his computer is connected to all the devices here; every moment he sees how the patient's condition is evolving.

- He gave you details about what he sees, I ask in a whisper, as before.

Dani was silent. He pulled up a chair next to us, now the three of us were sitting around Ari.

- Are you going to answer me?, I ask my boy, as I understand how difficult it is for him.

- Let's wait until morning, Segal told me. He didn't seem too optimistic.

I leaned back. The thought rumbled in my brain like drums. Images with from the past mingled, gave rise to questions after questions, let out screams of horror, screams of helplessness. And the pain keeps getting worse. But my mouth was silent, my eyes were dry, and the boys thought that I had calmed down, that I was strong. It's okay to believe. I am as calm as a man who loses the earth under his feet and sees himself lost. Whatever he did, he was lost forever ... I waited for the morning... Ari's hand was just as stretched out on the blanket at the edge of the narrow bed. I pulled my chair back a little so I could lie with my body half over the hand which seemed to be waiting for my caress. For a few moments it seemed to me that this position was restful, my head was resting on the rough blanket and my nose was rubbing against the edge of Ari's palm. I told myself that this way I rest a little, but without losing contact with him. I could also hear him breathing; until I heard nothing, I slipped into a deep sleep without my will. I disappeared, I didn't do my duty just when I had to. I know at one point I dreamed. It was as if I were sitting on an armchair, with my back bent, both hands on my head; I was on a speeding plane that was crashing, and that was the position we were asked to sit in. Suddenly I felt a strong blow all over my body, I saw the light of the explosion and that put an end to my dream. When I woke up, I felt Dr. Segal's hand on my shoulder and Dani's hand pressing against my arm, as if he wanted to lift me or hug me. Then I heard quite clearly the voice of Segal, hissing, imperative, addressed to Dani:

- Get her out of here, quickly, take her to my office. Quick, I don't want screams when the nurses will come to take him.

Dani was trying to help me up, he was whispering in my ear, “Imale, let's go out, I'll explain to you what happened. Come with me, please mommy, let's go out.

Meantime I became aware of what had happened, at the same time I was aware that I saw things from the outside, that it was no longer me, but a mountain of ice that could not be moved.

I couldn't cry like the Uri I saw sitting on the vinyl couch in the hallway, or scream, though I
wanted to scream like a siren spreading this unbearable pain.

But the ice did not melt, my mouth continued to be silent, and my legs screwed next to Ari's bed, which was impossible for me to leave. It crossed my mind that I could sleep next to him, because the devices were taken and there was enough room for me. Dr. Segal did not lose sight of me, only he guessed my thought. He embraced my shoulders with a gentleness I did not know, and told me almost in a whisper that anything is possible in this world, except to stop death; it goes in only one direction, with no possibility of turning. And the survivors have a duty to live at least just to keep their memory. We pity those no one remembers.

- Yaeli go home, some hard weeks are waiting for you. But you have to survive, to continue the life, the name and the honor of a man who will be among us, Dr. Aharon Braun.

Slowly, slowly he pushed me out of room no. 11 and handed me over to Ari's two sons.

 

*

The following week I can call it a "black hole." Honestly, I can't remember anything from
those days. But a lot of people, too many people who marched in front of me and uttered incomprehensible words. Dani was always behind me, whispering to me: hold your hand, nod you head... and I was executing all these recommendations like a robot. The same thing he whispered to Uri, whom he had to recommend: "Dr. Braun's son, from America." I have no idea how Uri was doing, or what impression I was making; but what do I care about the world!

So it was all week, while I sat motionless on the couch with Uri, and the house was full of people I didn't know or didn't recognize. Others took care of them, I think I noticed a few times Ella or Ira wandering among the strangers coming and going. I saw them always bringing other bottles of soft drinks and plates with cakes. It never crossed my mind that it was my duty to receive guests. I simply did not feel able to respond to condolences. Once Dani almost shook me to draw my attention to his words. He had to warn me that the mayor of the city, together with the Deputy Minister of Health, had entered, that I should make an effort to answer them, to try a short conversation, after which he would take over the discussion from me. Still, they honor us with their presence! I looked into my son's eyes for a moment to see that I was aware of what I was saying: Aharon Braun had honored them, all the mayors and health ministers before them for 25 years. He saved Jewish and Arab patients together, without distinction. Why did they finally shoot in his car, what was that, an irony of fate? You ask that to Mr. Minister in my place. I am furious at the entire universe, I can at most say "hello" to them because they have crossed my threshold. That's all I said and I lost myself in my silence again.

For the next few weeks I took shelter in my bedroom. I still couldn't cry, but at least it was quiet and I had something to think about. First of all, “why did they hit him, why didn't I leave that day too? To be together until the end, as I had long decided with Ari together.

Dani always came to my door to see what was happening to me. He called me to the table. Sometimes I accepted coffee. Then Ira would come and silently hand me a cup of chicken soup instead of coffee. She got into the habit of standing by the couch until she saw that I was drinking soup.

- I want to take the empty cup, wash it, she tried to justify her presence.

- Then sit down here by my side. What are my boys doing?

- Sitting in the garden. They also took out the dog. It's warm and pleasant outside, don't you want to go out a little too? What wonderful scents your flowers emanate!

- Ari planted them and took care of them, I don't know how. This is Ari's garden.

Ira came back in a few days. It was evening. This time she didn't wait for the invitation to sit down, she pulled out a chair in front of me and asked me to change my pajamas with a dress and go down to the living room for dinner.

- Why? I asked...

- Because you're hungry, because we can't stand to see you tormented like that, either, and because Uri wants to see you, he's going to America soon, where he has a job and children. Do you think you're helping Ari if you destroy yourself? Would he have wanted something like that?

Ira made me think.

I need to see Uri, talk to him again. Ari would be upset if I didn't take care of his baby. God, I didn't even ask him how he was feeling, he was hurt too!

I jumped to my feet, but immediately fell back due to dizziness. Ira grabbed me in her arms.

- Are you dizzy? No wonder. You’ve been hungry, in a closed room, unventilated for almost a month. How much do you think one can take it under these conditions? Okay, come on, I'll help you wash and change. Then we both go down. You will lean on me and we will manage together to the living room.

I listened to this decent girl. Who knows, maybe one day she will be my daughter! When we entered the room, both boys jumped to their feet. I felt that they both sincerely enjoyed my presence. Ira was the "host"; she prepared dinner, and let me know that starting next week, I will continue to feed "our" Dani. Why? Because she starts the exam session and will be very, very busy. I didn't contradict her, although I didn't see myself cooking as usual. Uri informed me that he would go home on Sunday; he stayed with us all month not because he still feels injured. The wound healed, he finished the whole portion of antibiotics, but he wanted to wait until his father's grave was consecrated. And he couldn't leave me in that state of despair, he felt he had to stay here until I recovered a little.

- My dear, I will never recover from this fatal blow; yes, fatal, for I died at the same time as Ari. Only I was punished to live on. So, whenever you come to the country, you will find me here, guarding Aharon Braun's house. The doctor, for whom every creature, grass, flower, ant, dog, sheep, or cow, had the same value and the same right to life. He dedicated himself to everyone. Only the people whose lives were most valuable to him were the people who did him the most harm. It is true that "ungratefulness is the reward of the world"... But forgive me for this "conference". I haven't spoken to you in a long time; I released some of my thoughts.

- It was very nice what you said about my father now. And about humanity. I will repeat your words in front of my students, at the first opportunity, Dani intervened.

Uri looked at me with interest.

- Yulia, you haven't forgotten I'm leaving the day after tomorrow. I'm sorry to leave you so vulnerable, but I have to. Good thing Dani is home, he and Ira will be very helpful.

- It's OK, leave in peace and come whenever you want. However, before we leave, I'd like us both to talk for a quarter of an hour. Will you remember it?

The next day I went through a hard test again; it has been 30 days since the fateful day that took Ari away from me forever. Again, a large crowd gathered to honor his memory. This time I was a little more awake, so I managed to recognize the people I knew, all my co-workers, but also those who knew Ari from different periods of life, from college and from all the jobs he had. I was told that officials from the Ministry of Health and representatives of the health department of Tel Aviv City Hall were present. Although I was not particularly concerned, at that time I was impressed by how much respect my dear Aharon Braun enjoyed.

At the end of the ceremony, when everyone was already on their way to the exit gate of the cemetery, I wanted to be alone for a few more moments by my Ari's grave. I don't know how long I kept quiet, I think not much, because I knew that Uri also wanted a few more minutes of intimacy near his father's grave. I took a few steps back, looking him in the eye. Then a man approached me and stood aside most of the time; I saw him a few times, but I thought he had come to visit someone's grave. Now he approached me with a respectful greeting. He stood in front of me, looking at me insistently, daring to speak first. I asked him if he wanted to discuss something with me.

- Yes, of course, I wanted to express my condolences to you and humbly apologize.

Seeing me puzzled, the man continued:

- My name is Ahmed Zahir and I had the honor to meet and respect Dr. Aharon Braun with all my love. When he worked on old farm Kohav, he came to our village near the old farm to save our cattle. No doctor wanted to work for us except Dr. Braun. We have a veterinary nurse, of course, but whenever serious medical intervention was needed, he would come. Even at midnight he came. He used to deliver the cows, but he also consulted our children when they were sick and even the older people. I swear on what you want that he never took money when he gave advice and help. To him all men were equal; he said that cows also suffer like everyone else. That's what I wanted to say to you. And to apologize on behalf of some crazy young men who the devils are pushing towards murder. The people from the village delegated me to tell you all this, as I am a teacher and I express myself better in Hebrew. They want you to know that we all cried, and we couldn't believe that Dr. Braun was in trouble.

I stood in front of Ahmed Zahir, the village teacher. It stirred up all the excruciating pain I was trying to keep under anesthesia. Eventually I held out my hand and walked away. What could I tell him, that I could forgive someone who kidnapped Ari, ruined my life, kidnapped me some years of happiness that no one will give me back? On the other hand, neither he nor his cattle-raising villagers can be hated "collectively" for the crimes of young terrorists. I was moved by this man's words of sincere regret. And at that moment no other wise thought came to me, and I could not find the right words to answer.

In the evening I stayed with the boys, we kept talking, among other things I told them about the meeting with the Arab teacher.

- If there were as many Arabs as rational as Ahmed Zahir, we might be able to end the eternal 'waves of murder, I say.

Uri completes my idea:

- If more and more of us were as wise and human as my father was, maybe we could live in peace.

These words immediately reminded me of what I had to ask Uri before leaving: what actually happened on that dark day, when the two of them suddenly arrived in Raanana, instead of walking through Tel Aviv.

- Well, that's exactly what I wanted to tell you, that after our schedule we had to go to Ramat Aviv, and on the way back to get to the Dizengoff Center. We really contradicted each other where to have lunch: my father wanted to take me to an elegant restaurant on Rohtschild Blvd., and I really wanted to eat a burger at Dizengoff Center, where he took me as a child. We did not reach the final decision, when someone from the old farm near Kfar Saba called to beg my father to come to his aid. The cow Masha could not give birth, the calf comes with its legs and not with its head forward. My father protested, saying that it was his day off, he was just going out with his son, who had come on a short visit from America... but the man was crying on the phone "Masha is dying"! Eventually we said to give up a two-hour walk, to leave to save Masha, and when we return we have time to eat burgers either in Tel Aviv or even at Kfar Saba. I couldn't even remember what a beautiful city it is. Let's see other places! At the farm everything went well, it did not need surgery. I saw with my own eyes how Aba managed with a few quick movements, or maybe they were massages, to turn the fetus in the correct position, with its head forward, and a new life slipped slightly on the "bed" prepared for the calf. The care of Masha lasted another quarter of an hour, which calmed down as if by magic, and the rest was taken care of by the young doctor, who attended the birth with only eyes and ears. My father tapped him on the shoulder and encouraged him: “Colleague, I bet that in a year or two you will do the same as me. You are receptive and eager to learn. Well done, it takes courage to do this job. "The host overwhelmed us with thanks, he didn't have so many words of praise. Especially since my father did not accept the money offered. He said that in his free days he does not work, but only visits his old patients.

That ended the "Masha business." We were free to continue our schedule, when suddenly Aba had the idea not to return through Kfar Saba; he knows a shorter road that passes by Ranaana and takes us out fast at the entrance to Jabotinsky, in Ramat Gan. I agreed: I didn't know the map and I wasn't behind the wheel. So we started. After 10 minutes of driving, the city blocks could still be seen, I heard the first crack in the car body, then the second. Then my father realized that they were firing at us. He shouted at me "Uri, get down, so they won’t hit you, I'm speeding up"! But I also understood what was happening and decided to throw myself at Aba, so that he wouldn't be hit by a bullet. The fires intensified, I wasn't fast enough, so I got the first bullet in my right shoulder; then the bandits took it to the left and fired at the driver. The car kept driving, I put my left hand on the steering wheel and we both tried to slow it down until it stopped. The terrorists disappeared, glad they hurt us both. Or maybe they saw before us the two police cars approaching at speed. I imagine that the police called an ambulance when they were still on the move, because in a few minutes the car arrived from Meier Hospital, the paramedic gave us first aid and transported us to Ichilov. Neither I nor my father were seriously injured. The misfortune came later, when my father had a heart attack. You know the rest.

I listened in silence to Uri's account. The images ran before my eyes, I saw scene after scene, and I could feel the ice around my whole body again, and I turned into a block of ice. I just said:

- Help me get to the bedroom, I have to lie down.

- No, Dani exclaimed, you're going to lie down here, and you're going to rest on this couch in our presence. Anyway, Ira made tea for everyone. We will drink together!

I didn't have enough strength to protest, so I accepted the offer to lie down on the couch. Dani gave me a sedative, then held my head to drink water. After an hour I was awake enough to drink a cup of tea with everyone else, although I hate tea, but I didn't dare ask for coffee at 8 o'clock in the evening.

They talked about Uri leaving the next day. His plane would take off at 10 pm, but he had to leave for the airport much earlier. The control of documents, luggage and personal belongings was now much more drastic than a year ago. After so many tragic events that we go through every day because of the terrorists, it was normal to tighten the verification of each traveler. Therefore, it was agreed that they would leave the house at 6 pm. It did not matter that they would be at the airport for about four hours, the main thing was for Uri to leave safely and get home healthy.

- Who will take him?, I ask, will we all get in the car?

- I think, ima, that it will be too much effort for you to spend four hours at the airport. I say only us will take Uri to the airport, Ira and me. There is also luggage.

- Okay, I agree. I'll see Uri the next day on Skype. We stay in touch, don't we? And then I have to take care of the house. If I wasn't so desperate this month, I would have read you a copy of the will I legalized at the notary a few years ago. Ari said that even if we have 100 years to live, we still have to take care of the children's future. So we bought these two houses next to each other. On another occasion I will tell you the history of buying this place in 20 years, today I am not able to continue, and the story is too long to tell it now. In short, both houses are absolutely identical, connected to each other by the living room with concrete walls in case of air strikes, God forbid! The part we're sitting in now was for the two of us, Ari and Yulia, and "after"... it will be Dani's inheritance. The right wing is entirely Uri's. He will decide if he wants to live there with his family... his wife and children, or sell it. There is no hurry to make the decision that is most convenient for him; until then I'll take care of everything. We can extend the contract with Dr. Tomer Levy who uses the veterinary office on the ground floor “and the rent collected to cover municipal taxes or repairs that occur over time ... We will discuss all this later. And I sincerely hope that you will visit us in the future.

I got up and asked Ira to come with me to my bedroom. I was dizzy and I felt safer on my feet climbing the five steps with someone.

The girl was kind and skilled. She knew how to protect me on the road without humiliating me, as if I were a man under guard. She simply took my hand like a walk and started some discussion.

- I regret that I will disappoint little Danut tomorrow. I promised him a half-day walk through Tel Aviv, and even a visit to Uncle Dan's house, to play with Pufi in the garden.

- And why don't you bring him? Even if you want to accompany Uri to the airport, I'll stay home. I still know how to entertain a 5-year-old. You know something, bring him, please. I will also have a pleasant company in your absence, children are very dear to me. Especially as long as they are little, they are a miracle. Later, they leave, they take flight... But it is also a law of nature, young people must take care of their lives. So, do we agree?

- If you're sure it's not hard for you... I'll bring him. OK, then tomorrow!

The next day, only Uri and I were at home. He packed his luggage so skillfully and neatly, like a child raised in a boarding school. For Dani, I packed the bags whenever he would go on a trip. He was a spoiled child, I wanted him to have a happy childhood, not to miss his father in his life. I was really proud of being able to be both a mother and a father for my child.

Uri, on the other hand, was abducted from a loving father, ready for any sacrifices for this boy, but he never felt his motherly love. That's why I fell in love with him long before I met him personally. I love him even more now when I know what a wonderful man he is and I see him looking so much like Ari as if he were a living copy of my beloved.

I knocked on his bedroom door to ask if he needed help. He was just coming out to go down to the living room.

- I'm done, did you think I come up with a lot of things? Only Sara takes her whole closet with her when we go somewhere for three days. I have another day left with you. I would stay, if possible.

- I see, Ori. Let's drink coffee together and talk a little while we're alone.

We filled our cups, sat down at the table, talking about insignificant things. I wanted to avoid any painful discussion for both of us. Suddenly Uri asked the question I didn't expect to hear:

-Therefore you were the woman my father dreamed of in my teens. I remember how excited he was the day he told me he talked to you. Or the other way, you called him at the telephone exchange and asked him to do you a favor. And he introduced himself, told you his name very clearly in the hope that you would remember him. He asked me, “What do you think, will she remember me? And I was surprised that my 32-year-old "old" father thinks like my colleagues. But at the same time I was very proud that I was old enough to ask for my opinion. What do you say about this?

- I say that I will regret all my life that we did not meet then, but only much later. That we lost so much of our happiness. On the other hand, however, I am deeply grateful for the 11 years of happiness I had next to this man. Maybe other women don't get what I've had in such a short time in a lifetime.

After a short break, I continued:

- I would really like you two, my children, to enjoy life to the fullest! Maybe Dani's relationship with Ira will be resolved this time. She made a good impression on me. What do you say?

- Same, I told Dani not to dare lose her a second time. Miracles are not repeated too often in someone’s life, use the moment, without delay!

- But what about you, Mommy? Forgive me for asking, but I talked to my father. If you want me to stop, I have just finished the discussion on this topic. I'm taking you for a walk around the house, I don't want you to leave without seeing everything that belongs to you here.

- We can walk and talk at the same time. I'm not shying away from you, my father talked to you on the subject, but know that I'm much worse than I told him. I let myself be led by my mother, father-in law, wife, the whole family. There are times when I suffocate. Let's go. That's all I'm telling you, I liked your suggestion. I will try to implement it. I'll talk to you all the time, maybe I'll need your advice.

- Anytime, at any time of the day or night, I'm here for you ...

We walked around the house, I showed Uri the garden, the yard, then the ground floor that looked like a doctor's office, went upstairs to see the bedrooms, suggested that the roof could be turned into a comfortable terrace, but also as a basis for adding another room. Uri was impressed:

- Do all this belong to me?, he asked repeatedly.

When we returned to the living room, I gave him a copy of the will, we had it in triplicate anyway.

Around two o'clock Dani came, immediately followed by Ira and her little boy. We sat down at the table, and Dănuț stepped between his mother's chair and mine. He kept looking at me, but he didn't speak. He didn't even eat, I imagine he was stuffed with burgers and ice cream. I placed a bowl of potato salad near his plate. I asked him if he didn't like potatoes because there were eggs there too. He looked at me curiously, he replied politely that he liked everything on the table, but he was not hungry.

- Well done, you're wise not to overeat. You’ll be hungry later, all your share will be in the fridge.

- Thank you! You know my name is Dani. How can I call you?

- I'm Yulia, I'm glad I met you. You're a very nice boy.

- Then, may I play with Pufi the puppy?

- Yes, you may, but be nice to him so he doesn't feel offended. He is a very sensitive and pampered dog.

- Me too. So can I get up from the table?

- If your mother allows it, I agree.

So, I we started our friendship. After dinner we had coffee in the living room and until 6 o'clock we kept talking about everything. Only the accident and loss of Aba became a taboo subject; I imagined there was a tacit agreement between them to spare me. And I did not tell them about my hard nights, when I was haunted by all the demons that dragged me in the flames of suffering. If I sometimes managed to fall asleep in the morning, my dark dreams continued to torment me. It wasn't until last night that I dreamed for the first time after the catastrophe a beautiful dream: I saw myself walking with Ari and holding hands; I recognized the place, it was Motzart Park in Vienna. The layers of roses gave off a wonderful scent, and we walked in silence, inhaling the divine scents. I woke up all sweaty, upset that the dream was over, that I woke up way too fast. After a while, when the first streaks of dawn were already overcoming the darkness of night, I got out of bed to open the windows wide, left only half-open in the evening. I needed air, so I lifted the sliding glass, and through the open space a flowering branch of the tree that grew near our wall penetrated overnight. It was the lilac that Ari planted two years ago, planting the seedlings we bought during our trip to the Druze village. I stuffed my face in the lilac flowers, which bloomed today as a gift from Ari for my birthday. I watered the tender flowers with a flood of tears, I finally cried after a long time, with a clear, liberating cry.

That morning I had the patience to stay in the shower for a long time, after which I would put on white pants and a green blouse, clothes I used to leave the house with. I combed my hair carefully, put a little color on my cheeks and eyelids, and the large bathroom mirror showed me Ari's pleased face.

- Is that better, honey, is the mask successful?

During the day I also noticed the surprised, but at the same time satisfied looks of the children. They understood that I would strive to live.

After 6 o'clock I was left alone with little Danut. He was a little gentler, I felt I was beginning to gain his trust. The first thing he asked for after his mother left was his food left in the fridge from lunch.

- I'm hungry now, do you still have my potatoes with egg?

- Of course, they’re waiting for you, I put them in the fridge. But what if I made you something fresh, more suitable for dinner? For instance, a soft boiled egg, toast and then a cup of warm milk or chocolate. I also have the cakes, do you want some?

- Sounds good, thank you" Will you eat with me?

- Well, if I set the table, then let it be for both of us. Until I finish my preparations, please feed Pufuleț. In the evening he receives a portion of bonzo as big as two of your fists, and a large bowl of cold water, so that he can have overnight. Ok?

He agreed, of course, and he was very pleased that I had entrusted him with this important task. Then we sat down at the kitchen table and we both dined in the most pleasant atmosphere. I ate my portion without taking my eyes off the child. First, for fear of drowning, or who knows what might happen to him in the absence of his mother, God forbid. Secondly, since noon an idea troubled me. A thought had even begun to haunt me, followed by a question. Who is the real father of this wonderful little boy?

The more I looked at him, the more familiar the features of his face seemed to me, the dimple in his chin, the nose a bit snub. Even the chubby fingers resembled those of my Dani at the same age. There was a good chance that the little Dănuț next to me would be my boy's son. And as a matter of fact, the child suddenly asked me if I knew a story for him, to tell him before bed, like any grandmother. I shuddered.

- What time do you usually go to bed?, I ask him. Don't you want to wait for mom?

- Well, my mother will be late, and I'll go to bed at 9 o'clock. If you have a bed for me somewhere, then that's fine. And you can give me a bath, put on my pajamas from ima’s big bag, and until I fall asleep, you tell me a story. How about my plan?

- It's more than good, it's great! Of course I have a bed for you, more than a bed, I offer you the room next to my bedroom. And I know a lot of stories, you have to choose one every night.

The boy had already opened the bag waiting in the corner of the small drawing room, and was waiting for me with his pajamas in his hand, eager to take him to his room. Maybe he was curious, or just tired after a day full of surprises.

- If you don't think it's too early for bed, then let's go.

I was talking to Danut as if he were a big man. That's what I think conquered him, children like to be respected. The bedroom made a good impression on him, but he was even more excited about the bathroom. He didn't even want to hear about the shower, he was insistently asking me to take a bath in his bathtub. I filled half of the tub with lukewarm water, I also poured some scented foam, and with that I finally conquered him. While I was soaping his back with a sponge (oh, what a beautiful pink sponge, like candy!) I was shocked again to find under the child's right shoulder a mole, not round, but elongated, just like my Dani has. It is of course a sign from birth, but hereditary! I burst out laughing with joy. The child asked me why I was laughing, did he say something funny? I replied that I remembered how I bathed my boy when he was little, but he was not as good as Danut, but he protested and shouted like a crazy.

- Interesting what you say, I still think Dani is a serious and good man.

- Of course, he is, I'm defending my son, but now he's a grown-up, and the incident with the fight in the bathroom happened a long time ago, when he was little. That's why you have big congratulations from me, because you are behaving so well.

After a quarter of an hour I managed to get him out of the water, put him in his pajamas and put him in the big bed, similar to mine. It was barely 8 o'clock, where can I get so many stories until the little boy falls asleep?

- So far I have only remembered three stories: "Tami and Ami", "The Little Goldfish" and "Little Red Riding Hood". What do you choose for tonight?

- Well, I don't want "Little Red Riding Hood" which is a story for small and stupid children. "Tami" I've heard before, so we can hear it another time. The "Golden Fish" it is.

- Let's hear this too!

I sat on the edge of the bed and began to tell him the whole story of Pushkin, infinitely prolonged by my imagination. Eventually I finished around 9 o'clock. I thanked the Lord that my listener had fallen asleep like a baby. At the same time, I apologized to Alexander Sergheevich for falsifying many facts from his brilliant story in order to make it last as much as possible. I tiptoed out of the child's room, half-opening the door to the hall, where it received some light. I went down to the living room to pick up Ira's bag, going upstairs to Dani's bedroom. So she knows where she'll sleep at night. Then I went back to my bedroom, took the drawers out of my toilet, and began searching through the jewels. I had a lot, although I don't like to embellish myself. It was enough for me to wear only Ari's wedding ring, just as I didn't need anything or anyone when we were just the two of us together. We had each other and it was enough. But now I don't have him anymore, so I'm looking for another support in the Universe. And I think I found it in this 5-year-old baby. I take out from under a pile of rings and bracelets gathered for many years in this drawer, a gold chain on which hung a medallion. It was the gift Dani bought me from his first salary. I open the locket and find exactly what I'm looking for: from inside, a child's face looks at me, with a curly round head, two intelligent eyes and a nose raised in the wind. It is the photo of my boy at exactly the same age that Danut is today. What can I believe seeing him? Who lied, or did they both lie to me? After all, why did that matter, since I have a grandson, a miracle baby that I will enjoy for many years to come. And I warmed up to the emotion of certainty: I discovered the truth!

I open the window wide and the branch with lilac flowers falls over my face again. I stroke it with both hands and promise it that tomorrow I will water the whole garden dry and neglected since its master left it. Just as my soul dries up longing for him. And I also thank Ari for taking care of me from wherever he is, because he brought me a new being, a reason to continue living. At that moment I hear a noise behind me and I turn scared. I see Dănuț sneaking into my bed, with his eyes closed, continuing to sleep on Ari's pillow. I have a moment's hesitation, but only one. Then I bring the duvet from the next bedroom, wrap him well and turn off the light. I go down to the living room just as the front door opens, and Dani and Ira quietly enter the living room. They are both surprised to see me in the living room.

- We were convinced that you and the baby are sleeping. Did he bother you?

- No, we had a wonderful evening with my grandson. He took a bath in the tub, had a good dinner, then went to bed in the bedroom next to me and fell asleep listening to a long story. Half an hour ago he came into my bed almost asleep, and now is he sleeping, wrapped tightly in the duvet. But why are we standing, it's only 11 o'clock. I should have asked you when you were going to tell me about the child. Or did you want to test me, to see if I could find out for myself?

- What are you saying, mommy, my son intervened, I found out only an hour ago that Danut is my child. Ira told me on the way home from the airport. I was going to have an accident out of this emotion.

I turned to Ira.

- Why did you keep quiet for so many years? You could at least talk to me.

- I couldn't. Dani sacrificed me for his career. He left me, left everything behind and went to America. After a month I left I realized I was pregnant. For nothing in the world would I have told him about the child. I know he's honest and good, he would have come back. Then we would have lived a lifetime with a shadow of reproach for ruining his plans and career. If I came to you, what would you have done? You would bring him back to me, forced by your maternal authority... But that's not what I wanted from life. What else can I tell you, to justify myself? If I did something wrong, tell me and I 'll be back to my parents’ tomorrow morning.

I removed the locket chain from my neck and put it on hers.

- It's yours, I told Ira. Take a good look at the photo inside the locket to see how many minutes it took me to realize that the miracle in my bed is Dani's boy. I put your luggage in your room upstairs. Danut gladly received the bedroom next to mine. It's easier for him to visit me at night when he needs a story. I smiled, and at the same time I realized how long it had been since I last smiled.

- So, it's time to rest. Go upstairs too, the floor is yours for now; until you get married and we will make other arrangements, so that it will be as good and comfortable as possible for you. And I am grateful for the warmth that your presence has brought me.

The next day going to the kitchen around 7 in the morning, I was surprised to find Dani waiting for me with a cup of coffee.

- Why did you get up so early, mommy, I pamper my boy as before. Today only I go to work, and you two still have time to be lazy.

- Well, it doesn't work with laziness, if Dănuț already visited us an hour ago. We played in bed, and now I was sent to prepare a chicilate "but to be the same as Grandma Yulia made it."

- Did you tell him to call you 'Grandma'?

- No, but I like it. He is an intelligent child, and such children have an extra sense. I think the boy recognized me before I discovered him. Honey, give me more grandchildren like him... At least one more into the world. I must also rejoice to see him grow up in all stages of childhood, unfortunately I lost the beautiful years with Dănuț and I am very sorry. But this time I will be present. I talked to Ira tonight about everything. We also decided that the second one will be a boy, to have a beautiful name: Aharon!

I sat down in a chair to calm my excitement and trembling in my knees. I didn't say anything, I just asked Dani to call me a taxi. Today I couldn't wait for the bus that usually takes me to work. I needed my peace and intimacy in the taxi so I could talk to myself:

So, Yulia Braun, you got to almost the same place you started from; where Ari took you when he found you. Again you are a widow who has to endure life again, you'll be flying home to take care of your baby, or maybe more, if you're lucky. Now you are older than in those days, you have less strength. On the other hand, do not sin! You have had some years of happiness, for which you must be grateful day and night. Not every woman has enjoyed in her life the Paradise that fate has given you embodied in the man Aharon Braun: a human perfection! And now you are no longer alone as in the face of the storms of existence. You have a son by your side, and one in America; you have a good daughter-in-law and a wonderful grandson. And in the distance you can already see the ray of light that will soon brighten your days: the future Aharon, little Ari will be your new love.

Thank the destiny for giving you the straw to cling to, to have a reason to live on.

 

THE END

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Afterword

 

 

There are people who emanate sincerity and a kind of charm that belongs only to them. There are people of a good taste and a lifelong call to literature. Reading these words somewhere, the thought led me to the honest woman who is the writer Hedi Simon. Her elegant and discreet writing captivated me with every book.

Hedi Simon's novels and stories go through a long period of dramatic history that the Jews of Romania went through. Each book contains a human message and represents a state of mind. Some of the writer's short stories have an autobiographical character, in which Hedi Simon confesses in a deep and serious note. In other works, there are problems characteristic of the time and space in which we are now. I dare to quote the literary critic Liviu Moscovici (z.l.) who said in 2009, in fact the very year of his departure in the longest journey: “The stories of the writer Hedi Simon oscillate between the description of some events in the Romanian environment and the Israeli one. In all of them the author uses the same sincere tone, the same naturalness, the same love for those she describes.”

It excites me that among the thoughts he had on the verge of leaving, it was also referring to Hedi. The characterization is still valid today, with the publication of the latest book: "Late Love".

I start the discussion about this book, even using a sentence which belongs to the writer: "When two misfortunes meet, great happiness can sometimes be born".

I consider the novel a surprise. Hedi Simon opens her soul wide. The book, written in the first person, can be read breathlessly, like an intimate diary. It is the life of an exceptional woman, a real, living heroine, whom we will not forget too easily. Iulia Bergman, or Yael, is a single woman, whose husband had died in a terrorist attack, leaving behind a young wife and a boy whom Iulia raises alone and who has now become a young scholar, attached to his mother. Iulia is an energetic woman, in a position of responsibility in a large foreign trade institution, a job that occupies her all the time.

A happy event, as sometimes happens in life, brings in front of her and in her life the veterinarian Aharon (Ari) Braun. We gradually enter into the action of the novel that unfolds with many beautiful moments. "Who decided that love is only for young people", Iulia says in moments of happiness, considering these moments "Concentrated love pills" (p. 41).

Life goes on on a normal path. The two accomplish different plans: houses big enough, a medical office for Ari's "patients", trip plans, etc. But, just like in life, there are troubles. The discovery of Iulia's illness upsets their plans. After a difficult surgery, supported by Ari and Dani, her son, Iulia recovers and ... life goes on.

They started thinking about trips. Iulia dreamed of seeing Vienna. The chapter entitled thus presents us with the wonderful city of famous waltzes, through the delighted eyes of the writer.

But Hedi Simon also demonstrates here her talent for turning the general into particular into the personal: they want to meet with Jews in Vienna and this is done, being invited to a kosher restaurant. Everyone enjoyed the guests from the Holy Land. And the questions began, as if they were at a press conference:

“How do you live in such conditions, what is the situation in Lebanon, what will happen to the war in Gaza? Jihad, ruffians, questions were flowing. And again: "How do you live in these conditions?"

"We are going through human tragedies," Ari replied, "and the next day we go to work." On Fridays and Saturdays, we are with the family or we go to a show... That's about our life, we don't let ourselves down”. (p. 104).

Iulia added: "Come to Israel for one year and you will understand." But she also asked a question, followed by a heavy silence: “But how do you feel when you walk down a street here or elsewhere and come across a group of demonstrators shouting anti-Semitic slogans (...) or burning the Israeli flag!” Then they went through other topics and said goodbye and greetings to all Israelis. Here is how the discussions went: sometimes on personal issues, sometimes on those of general interest, which were also personal issues.

The next chapter of the book is named after the male character: "Ari Braun". This time, we learn from him details of his life. His son, whom he raised alone after his wife left for America, left him at his mother's urging to come to her. After many events, the son will come to Israel to see his father again and meet his new family. Julia and Ari consider themselves parents of two older sons.

But destiny, always DESTINY, changes plans again, taking us “To the end”. It is the title of the last chapter, which I seemed to have sensed throughout the reading. A terrible terrorist act and Ari, Iulia’s Ari, disappears from her life, disappears forever from her life. The great pain follows, the emptiness that remains. The burial, the people at the cemetery. He was a well-known and appreciated doctor.

Again, Hedi Simon impresses us: next to the fresh grave was the owner of one of Ari’s patients: an Arab from an old farm, who came to mourn the one who had saved his animal from death. A meaningful fact.

The end of this life story is also significant: Destiny took the life of the man she loved, but with the appearance of Dani's child, Iulia's son, she was given a new life, which would help her move on.

"Late Love" is a book that proves once again that Hedi Simon is a woman of writing, who also knows how to defend her beliefs.

Gabi Moscovici

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To my family,

the only fulcrum in my little Universe, thanks for existing!

 

 



[1] Ima – mother (Hebrew)