Uzi’s Wife

by Moshe Dann (March 2013)

Three years after Uzi died, Bella took their wedding rings to Avraham, the jeweler, determined to make some changes in her life. Before becoming a widow, she'd often been to his store on Jerusalem's Ben Yehuda Street, for earrings, a bracelet, a necklace, or just to browse; it gave her an excuse. His store had been more than a place of ornaments and common fantasies. Avraham had become a friend whose smile and graciousness made her feel special, knowing intuitively what she wanted and how to please her. His soft voice and European manners were so different from rough Israeli machismo and Uzi's cool indifference.

Lingering in Avraham's store soothed her jagged nerves. His compliments and appreciation filled a void. Now, with the rings in her pocket Bella felt like a woman with another chance at life.

Walking through Zion Square she passed small groups of hippy kids and street musicians as she made her way up the pedestrian mall towards Avraham's shop. A strong afternoon sun flashed against the stone buildings, leaving trails of shadows scattered along the pathways. A few people sat outside at café tables near shwarma and falafel stands and on low retaining walls that encircled parched, emaciated trees. A few months without terrorist attacks and life almost seemed normal again. Bella passed a memorial plaque dedicated to the victims of a Palestinian homicide bomber. It had been a Saturday night, just after Hanukkah two years ago. A crowd of young people had gathered to sing songs for Havdalah. Bella remembered the scenes on TV, bloody faces and cries of the wounded, frantic emergency crews and her own fear. She stopped for a moment in front of a twisted pile of dried flowers and read the names and the date, feeling as if part of her was sinking into the stones. 

Bella entered the narrow corridor that led from the street to Avraham's small store. It was empty; she felt excited, the only customer, a quiet intimacy. A single showcase a few meters long glittered with trays of jewelry. Nothing had changed, she thought. In a small alcove on the other side of the counter Avraham sat under a light hunched over his cluttered work bench. He didn't seem to notice her until she tapped the glass with her fingernails and then suddenly he looked up and smiled. She noticed that he'd grown older and heavier. She wanted to give him a hug, but contented herself with a wave of her hand.

“Bella!” His eyes sparkled with warmth and surprise. “Ah, you look wonderful! How are you? It's been a long time…ah… since Uzi… passed …” words trapped in memory, then stopped. “So sorry…” He frowned, a splinter of confusion stuck between them. The clock ticked and horns bleated in their awkward silence.

“Yes, but he was so sick.” Bella sighed. “He suffered. It was better,” she said, surprised to have admitted that so easily, yet unsure what she was ready to reveal. “And, well, life goes on!” She wanted to sound upbeat. She didn't want to remember Uzi dying next to her, but images plowed into her anyway, his body curled into itself, his face twisted in pain, her useless efforts to comfort him. Touching her cheek she wondered if Avraham was dating anyone, or remarried.

Over the counter that separated them, Avraham took her hand. “Bella, it's so good to see you,” he said simply. She blushed, absorbing the warmth of his fingers, reluctant to let go.

“Avraham,” she said taking the rings out of her pocket and placing them carefully on the glass counter, “make something new for me. I need something special in my life.” She wondered if he understood.  

Avraham nodded predictably. Bella tried to remember when his wife had died. Was it seven or eight years ago, around the time that Uzi had first been diagnosed? Afterwards his store became the center of his life, his customers like family. Necessity wound in silver and gold, she thought, looking at an elegant pair of earrings. 

Bella ran her hand over her hair, noticing the stain in Avraham's shirt where his belly hung over his belt; his collar was frayed. A man of such aesthetics, she thought, doesn't take care of himself, so unlike him. He needs a woman in his life. Straightening her shoulders, she took a deep breath, feeling a familiar ache down the back of her left leg and an emptiness.

Aware that even at middle age their attraction for each other still remained, Bella wondered if he was ready to start a new relationship, and if she could take the chance. Feeling awkward, she shifted her weight, suddenly unsure of herself. “Make something special for me,” she winked.

Holding the rings in the palm of his hand as if weighing choices, Avraham nodded.

A new life, Bella wanted to shout, knowing that such things didn't happen easily, or often. “Perhaps a nice little stone,” she added. Am I asking for too much? She looked at her barren fingers, one marked by a line which seemed to glisten and memories she could not erase. She wished her fingers were as smooth and slender as they had once been when the world was filled with so many possibilities.         

Reflected in the glass case, Bella brushed wisps of grey hair from her face, the wrinkles hardly visible, wishing Avraham was younger and not bald, daring him to sweep her up in his arms, caught in his strength. But can't have everything, she reminded herself. At least now I can do whatever I want, and touched the back of his hand.

“I'll see what I can do,” he said playfully.  

She spread out her hands and chuckled. “Look, no rings,” she proclaimed proudly announcing her innocence and freedom. A bit late, perhaps… No, 'never too late,' she hummed to herself. She pursed her lips, wondering what Uzi would have said, his unforgiving eyes squinting at her from the top of a showcase in a corner of the store. Another customer came in, banishing her fantasies.

“I'll call,” she said as she turned and walked out through the dark corridor that led to the street. Avraham was already waiting on another customer. Uzi would not have understood, she murmured to the musty, peeling walls. For a moment she felt lost. Three years. She repeated, acknowledging what she didn't want to admit. And still he was there, reminding her that she was his wife.

Bella glanced at the watch that Uzi had given to her before he died, its worn band aching on her wrist, blurred numbers barely visible beneath its scratched face. She took it off and stuffed it into her purse, determined to buy a new one the next time she went to the Mall. But she had other things to do. A swim in the municipal pool on Emek Refaim would be refreshing, mingling with young bodies. She needed to renew her subscription and buy herself a new bathing suit, one that fit less snugly. On the way home she would shop for salad at the market. There was folk dancing in the evening at Beit Ha'Am, The People's House; melodies throbbed in her, a remnant of her youth. The following day she'd agreed to volunteer as a guide at the Bible Lands Museum and have lunch with her friend Arlene, the assistant director. She considered an afternoon at the Cinematique's new film festival and perhaps a trip to Tel Aviv where her daughter lived with “a friend”; Bella wondered if they would ever get married and if he'd get a steady job. She wouldn't miss her classes in yoga and meditation.

A young couple embraced on the street in front of the Mashbir Department Store. He wore an army uniform, his rifle slung on one side, their arms around each other, saying goodbye. Bella remembered when Uzi would leave for reserve duty, the way she'd clung to him and waited for him to return, listening to news reports of attacks and battles, searching lists of dead and wounded. Would the violence and threat of annihilation ever end? Oh God, she prayed, let them grow up to live and love. Give them a chance.  

Bella walked quickly towards the waiting bus and boarded. Squeezing past a Hassid wearing a long black coat and hat, she breathed a sigh of relief as she found a place to stand in the back. She wondered how he could wear such heavy clothing, put her forehead against the metal pole and held on as the bus jerked violently down the street, wishing someone was waiting for her at home.

“It's ready,” Avraham said simply when he called a week later. “Come by any time.” Bella was excited to hear his voice and wanted to know how he was, but he seemed impatient, distracted. She stuck out one leg from the thin blue cotton robe that Uzi had bought her for their 20th anniversary, balancing and waited for Avraham to continue; he didn't. She heard voices in the background. The store must be packed, she concluded, not wanting to intrude. He's busy. He's not interested in me anyway. She wiped a layer of dust from the top of the piano that no one played anymore. And he's been alone for a long time. She recalled Avraham's wife, a quiet mousey sort of woman with intense eyes, darting back and forth behind the counter, her henna-tinted hair swinging wildly, whispering prices to Avraham, trying to make a sale as if there was never enough time, or money. Bella kept her hair neat, a 'severe elegance' her hairdresser advised her.    

Twirling the ends of the sash around her fingers, Bella imagined being alone with Avraham in his store — he moved closer, touching her shoulder. He doesn't smile enoughUzi smiled. Uzi was always activeAvraham is heavier and moves slowly, deliberately. Perhaps he's not well. But when she was with Uzi there was no place for her amidst his intensity. Even when they made love, and rarely at that, he'd seemed to be somewhere else. She needed his patience; he wanted to sleep. And just as she was beginning to enjoy herself, he'd already finished. “Sorry;” he'd explain, “dysfunction,” like a mantra. Bella learned to take care of herself. Perhaps, she thought, slipping into a dark blue dress, with Avraham things would be different.

Standing at the bus stop she worried if it was safe to ride buses again. Surveying others waiting with her and the bags they carried she smelled the dry pine mixed with dust, a sign that a hamsin was beginning. A siren wailed far away; she hoped that it wasn't another terrorist attack.

The bus dropped Bella in the center of town. The colors of the stone buildings mellowed to a rich bronze. A breeze eased the heat of the day as she walked quickly past fast food shops and clothing stores, bookshops and tourist traps. She stopped to listen to a man playing the violin in front of the bank. Tall, thin, he appeared to be about Uzi's age, with bushy eyebrows that stuck to his face and long, wavy grey hair thinning at the top. He wore a dark grey shirt, black pants and fancy Italian shoes. Shoes, she thought. He's probably a new immigrant from Russia, she concluded, watching him sway with a haunting gypsy melody.   

Shifting her weight, Bella remembered that Uzi had loved the violin. Sounds filled the space around her like waves. I could not rescue him. She remembered a trip they had taken together to Romania. He'd been invited to speak at a conference. He usually preferred to travel alone, but this time he'd taken her with him. One evening on the verandah of a restaurant overlooking the Danube, a gypsy musician, red scarf around his neck, serenaded them. There were candles; the food was delicious; the wine made her feel light. Suddenly, as he played, the violinist had leaned close to her, wrapping her in a sensuous melody, as if he knew what she wanted. As usual, Uzi seemed preoccupied and didn't notice her eyes, a dark river of what could have been. Blaring horns jarred her back to the clogged Jerusalem street.   

Someone was yelling at a driver who was stuck in the middle of the road. Other drivers honked impatiently. Fumes filled the air. Bella coughed, looked around and rummaged quickly through her bag. When she threw a few shekels into his open violin case he dipped a shoulder towards her in appreciation, his eyes sparkling, the music breaking into syncopation, another rhythm that existed beneath everything. Perhaps it was that gesture that caught her off balance as she suddenly dropped her bag, spilling papers in the wind. Flustered, she tried to catch them with her feet and stuffed them back inside. He nodded, without missing a note. For a moment she lingered over that petite encounter, as though he was playing just for her, like that evening in Bucharest. A weariness groaned within her in the heat of the afternoon, a longing that opened, like a button of her blouse undone, revealing what she had so carefully hidden.

Avraham's store was empty when she arrived. She saw him sitting in the back on a stool hunched over a small table cluttered with tools and pieces of jewelry, an eyepiece protruding from his face. He looked up and smiled broadly. 

“I worked on them; I even dreamed about them,” he said swinging off his chair. “For you, because you are so beautiful.” His style was a bit profuse but she savored the marrow of his flattery. Holding her hand, he placed the new ring in her palm. Bella remembered her wedding, the blessings, the excitement of being married and then her disillusionment.

“Exquisite,” she said holding it up to the light. He had braided the gold like a challah and imbedded a stone inside. She felt a thrill pass through her as she slipped it on her finger and held her hand out in front of her. “Yes, as usual, a work of art,” she complimented him; he glowed appreciatively.    

Avraham stood with his back to the mirror, a corner of his shirt hanging out. Her back and legs ached; she ran her hand along her buttocks and winced. Her mouth was dry. She drank from a bottle of mineral water. “You're wonderful,” she said. He seemed to blush. “And … ah, how much?” she asked, opening her purse.

He hesitated. She sensed his awkwardness. “Ah, thirty-six dollars.” She looked at him. “Is that okay?” he asked, for a moment humbled by the transaction.

“Thirty-six?” she responded. “Phew, hardly enough. Why, you must have worked days on this. Look at the work. So delicate. So fine. A hundred and thirty-six!”

She would not have paid more than fifty, but she knew he wanted to give her a bargain. “Times four,” she wanted to give him more than the rate of exchange and calculated, “comes out to almost one-hundred and fifty shekels.” She handed him the amount and touching his fingers, refused the change. His shirt stuck to his back and his forehead was smudged where he'd wiped his hands.

“By the way,” Bella asked suddenly, “why don't you come for dinner?” She wanted to sound wild, impulsive. “Tonight. I'll cook.” She wondered if she was being too forward. “Bring a nice bottle of wine,” she said decisively. Raising his eyebrows, he straightened, as if challenged and intrigued. He smiled.

“Why, it's very kind of you. I really couldn't impose…I don't know…”

“Nonsense, Avraham. I'm going to cook anyway. So you're invited. You know where I live. Come at eight.”  Bella spoke with authority, leaving little room for hesitation or doubt. She had prepared herself and now didn't want to appear unsure. Perhaps, she thought, she should have waited for him to make the first move, but that might have taken months, or years. Or never.

Avraham leaned on the glass counter. “Yes,” he said finally as she moved toward the door. “Yes, that would be nice.”  Glancing around, she smiled and walked out as if leading a parade. 

*  *  *

Avraham arrived exactly at eight. A yekke, she said to herself as she opened the door.

“Come in. Please don't be shy.” She wore a flowing dark red dress, one of Uzi's favorites. Avraham's brown jacket didn't match his grey pants, white shirt and tie. A bit too formal, she thought.

Bella took his arm and walked into the living room. “I remember this,” he said, “after Uzi died, the shiva…” 

Bella remembered too and wondered if she should have slipped Uzi's photos into the bookshelf, but now it was too late. Everything was as it had been, except for Avraham who stood in the middle of the room, holding a bottle of wine, his pants a little too short, bald-headed, smelling of after shave cologne, and breathing heavily. She hadn't noticed that before. Had she done the right thing? She mused. Was he feeling okay?

She felt light, tingling with expectations and wondered if he would try to kiss her and what she would do. I've been a good, loyal wife, she told herself.

“Can I take your coat,” she asked. “You must be warm. It was so hot today.” She fanned her face with her hand. He handed her the jacket. “Dinner's almost ready,” she said, as he pulled his pants over his belly and wiped his forehead with his sleeve. “Would you like to open the wine?”

She led him into the kitchen, suddenly aware that the apartment needed serious renovations. Old fashioned, she said to herself. She had put off making changes in her life, reluctant to alter what she had accepted for so long, all that life-with-Uzi meant. But now, she thought, maybe now. Maybe with Avraham…things would be different.

She turned off the stove. “Salmon and rice and salad. I hope that's okay.”

“Wonderful. I haven't had a home cooked meal in a long time. This is so nice of you.” His face reddened, wincing as he pulled out the cork. She wondered if he was strong; she didn't want to nurse a sick man again. 

The table was set; everything was ready. She touched Avraham's shoulder. He turned toward her. She noticed that he needed a haircut.

“Dinner is served,” she said politely.

“Ah, yes,” he said, as if distracted. Bella felt reassured by his formality and her own. Boundaries are made to be broken, she admonished herself.

“Make yourself at home,” she touched his hand, prepared to offer an embrace were it offered. He put his hand on hers.

There was a knock at the door. She wondered if it was Avigail, her upstairs neighbor, needing an egg or sugar; she was always out of something. Or perhaps one of the regular charity shnorrers. She took a few shekels out of her purse.

Bella opened the door impatiently. The musician that she'd encountered earlier in town stood before her, his violin case tucked under his arm. He held out several pieces of paper, unpaid bills with her name on them.  

“Oh, thank you,” she said taking them. “They must have fallen out of my bag.” He stood silently without moving. Bella didn't know what to do. “Thank you,” she repeated, but still he didn't budge. “What do you want? Money? A reward?”  She handed him the coins; he put them into his pocket, but didn't move. Bella wondered if he understood or was just being difficult. “I'm sorry,” she said unable to finish the encounter. “I'm busy now,” she spoke sharply, “so… goodbye.”  He shifted his weight.  

Leaning towards him she whispered slowly, “What do you want from me?” She glanced at Avraham hoping he wouldn't hear and saw him looking at Uzi's books. “Listen, I appreciate that you came all the way …But you can't do this …”

Bella felt trapped, unable to step back and close the door. His eyes, she thought, so clear and calm, so sure of himself as he clutched his violin case.

“Are you hungry? Is that it? You want something to eat, or drink?” He nodded. “Okay, come in and I'll give you. But then you must go. Understood?”

When she stepped aside he walked in as if that was what he had been waiting for all the time.

“Avraham,” she called out, “someone stopped by to return some mail I'd lost and I thought, well, if you wouldn't mind, I'll just give him something to eat. He's so hungry, poor fellow. Only a minute.”

“Here, come with me.” She led him to the kitchen, filled a plate with food and pulled out a chair for him, but he ignored her and immediately took his plate into the dining room, placed his violin case on the floor next to him and sat down at the table.

Bella was stunned by his audacity but didn't know what to do. Better to play along with him she thought; resistance might make things worse. Who knew what he would do? She decided to let things take their course, hoping that Avraham would be forceful if necessary.

Filling two more plates with food she brought them to the table. “Avraham, this is, ah…” she hesitated, hoping the stranger would offer his name. He looked at them without the slightest intention of revealing who he was. “…Moti.” The name spilled out. It could have been any name, but this would work, she hoped long enough at least until he left.

Avraham glared at the violinist and pulled his chair closer to Bella, who blushed as she tried to comprehend what was happening.

“A glass,” she noticed. “You don't have a glass.” But before she could get up the musician was already in the kitchen and back at the table, glass in hand. Grabbing the wine bottle, he filled his glass to the top. Avraham snatched the bottle from him and filled Bella's glass and then his own.

“Are you from the neighborhood?” Avraham grumbled as he balanced a piece of fish on his fork. The musician did not answer, eating without looking at them, as if they weren't even there.

“I said…” Avraham began again, but Bella stopped him.

“He's not social,” she said, improvising, hoping that the musician would finish quickly and leave. “Ignore him; I'm sure he'll leave soon,” she said loudly and turned to Avraham. “I'm so happy you could come,” she said, pretending that nothing unusual was happening.

The musician slowly reached into his pocket, took out a watch and placed it next to his plate. Uzi's watch! Bella gasped. How did he get it? It must have fallen out of my bag with the papers. He pushed it across the table towards Bella glancing at her as if they were conspirators and resumed eating.

“Thank you,” she said softly and slid the watch into her pocket

Frowning, Avraham said nothing. The sound of knives and forks clicked against the silence. Bella turned to Avraham.

“Something more,” she smiled. He closed his eyes and shook his head. She was getting more and more irritated and impatient.

“I think it's time you left,” Bella said, getting up and facing the violinist. “Yes, it's time,” she tried to sound decisive. Her voice was sharp, with a hint of anger and frustration. He looked up at her as if his presence should be taken for granted, but didn't move. A test of wills, Bella thought. Avraham pushed back in his chair, wiped his mouth and watched.

The musician suddenly leaned over, took out his violin, placed it under his chin and tightening his bow, rose and began to play. She listened intently. It was a melody that was familiar to her as if someone had called out her name. A gypsy fiddler, she thought, without a red scarf.

“Bella,” Avraham stood up. “Perhaps I should leave you with your 'friend' …” He sounded disappointed and offended.

“No, Avraham, he's not my 'friend.' The truth is I just met him. He was playing near your store. My bag spilled. He came to return these things, you see, I didn't invite him. Please,” she put her hand on his arm. “Stay. He'll leave soon. Nothing to be upset about. We were having such a nice evening.”  But they weren't, she chided herself. It was becoming a disaster.

Bella turned to the musician who continued to play at the end of the room. “Now see what you've done. You've ruined my evening.” He held the violin with his chin, arms hanging at his side, tapping his shoes with the tip of the bow as she stood facing him.

Suddenly Bella began to laugh gently. The musician was unsure of what to do as Bella then burst into laughter. Even Avraham began to smile. Bella blew her nose into a napkin and looked at the musician. She noticed a small gap between his teeth and then his eyes, shining playfully beneath his heavy eyebrows.

“Damnit,” she said wiping away tears, “who are you?

He shrugged as if that were enough. “Your name,” she insisted. “At least that.”

“Leonid,” he said quietly.

“Leonid. Do you have a last name?” 

“A year ago I came.” He spoke a mixture of broken Hebrew, Yiddish, English and a Slavic language she didn't understand. “My family gone. Phewt,” he whistled through gaps in his teeth, his hand sweeping across the space before him. “My wife took children to concert. Chechnikim also went to concert.” He looked straight at her, his eyes wide, as if exploding inside. “Then boom.” His hands moved up and out shaping a death cloud. “No wife. No children.” His voice softened like a dull-edged knife. “I came here. I play musica. No words. It is more easy.”  

Bella closed her eyes, lost in that image. “Well…?” Avraham began, as if some decision had to be made.

Bella looked at him and then at the musician. Uzi would not have liked Leonid, she thought, this strange eccentric man who had intruded and refused to leave.

“Well…?” Avraham insisted. It was a good question, and she didn't have a better answer. She wanted to say that she was tired and confused, that nothing made sense, so why not this. She wanted to say that she longed for a little excitement, a little romance, a reason to get up in the morning, someone with whom to share a world that seemed to be falling apart faster than she could piece together.

“Homeless,” she said, raising one eyebrow, the word flowing out of her so clearly, so defiantly. They looked at her.

“Both of you,” she said more firmly. “So you are welcome.” It was her home now, alone. She would not apologize or step back. These two men had suddenly become part of her life. Her life. And, she thought, she too was homeless in a way. Uzi's photographs stuck in frames taunted her to live without him.

Avraham also seemed bewildered, his shoulders sagged, unsure of what he should do. A fresh breeze filtered through the window. Avigal was cooking onions. And what would she think about such guests?

The two men sat across from each other. Bella put a plate of fruit between them and watched them eat.

Leonid took Uzi's chess set, placed it between himself and Avraham and silently the two men began to play, hunched over the tiny black and white figures that separated them. It seemed to Bella at that moment quite natural and totally absurd at the same time.

She cleared the table and placed the dishes in the sink. Uzi stared at her from the refrigerator door. She remembered when the picture was taken, a spontaneous trip to the beach one afternoon on their first anniversary. He smiled strangely, as if he knew something that she did not; she remembered her innocence, unaware of what lay before her. Now, it's different. She nodded to the picture. No more you; just me. She shivered, feeling a sudden wind, a fear that she would have to stand alone and the need to do just that. It was as if she had stepped over a line from one world to the next, needing nothing of the men who sat in her living room.  

She watched them from the doorway, turning the ring with her thumb. Avraham looked up.

“The ring,” he exclaimed. “I made it for her,” Avraham proclaimed proudly. “Quite beautiful, don't you think?”

Leonid nodded, concentrating on the chess board. “She brought me two wedding rings and I made them into one,” Avraham proclaimed.

“Mate!” Leonid announced, pushed himself away from the table and stood up. Taking his violin, he checked the tuning and began to play a lilting gypsy melody that made Bella smile. She leaned against the doorway. Avraham got up and stood next to her.

“Shall we dance?” he asked and put his hand around her waist as they began to waltz between the furniture. The musician played faster. Avraham began to sweat. Bella stepped back as Avraham whirled, his arms spread out in a wild vortex of energy. Then suddenly he stumbled, gasped and lost his balance. Clumsy, Bella thought. She stepped towards him as he staggered and then collapsed on the floor. At first she thought he had tripped, an accident, but when he didn't move she screamed his name and knelt next to him.

“Oh my God,” she pleaded, bending over him. His eyes were closed but he was breathing. “Avraham,” she cried out and tried to pull him up. Opening his eyes, he smiled weakly.

“I guess I drank too much. Got dizzy…” he propped himself on an elbow.    

Bella wiped his face with a napkin. “Are you okay? Can I do anything? What happened?”

Avraham pushed himself up and sat on the sofa. Bella brought him a glass of water. “I think I'd better go home now,” he said calmly, as if advising himself.

“I'll call a cab,” Bella went to the phone and gave her address. In a few minutes she heard the horn. “The cab's here,” she said and helped him on with his coat. “Can I …?” she began. 

“No, no,” he waved her away and walked slowly outside. Bella waited until the cab left and then, closing the door behind her, flopped into a chair.   

Taking a deep breath she noticed Leonid standing in a corner. She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself. Now what? she sighed, opened a cabinet, took out the last of Uzi's whiskey and poured it into two glasses, one for Leonid and a bit for herself.   

They sat at the table, the vacant chessboard between them, pieces scattered around, kings and queens, black and white. No judgment and no blame

Leonid reached out, took her hand and gently slipped the ring off her finger. She wondered what he was doing, but didn't resist. Then suddenly he popped it into his mouth and swallowed it with the whiskey.  Bella was startled.

“What the hell…” she sputtered.” How dare you…”  

“L'Chaim,” he said, clinking his glass against hers and drained the last drop. Bella wanted to slap him. He moved his head back and forth and then took up his violin and began to play another tune. Suddenly, he stopped, looked around, collected Uzi's photographs and set them on the table in front of her.

“What do you expect me to do with them?” she asked. He looked at her without answering and began to play again. Bella listened and then, as if unable to evade this challenge got up and placed them in the back of the bookshelf.

“Okay?” she asked. “Now what?”  

He scratched his ear and began to play another melody, a simple one that she had not heard before; she felt it ripple through her.    

“Leonid,” she extended her hands, “your shoes. Give me your shoes.”

He stopped playing, stared at her, then took them off and handed them to her. Bella placed them outside on the porch, went to her closet and returned with a pair of men's sandals.

“Try them on,” she said, dropping them at his feet. He slipped into them and looked up at her. “They fit,” she announced with satisfaction. “I saved them … for some reason… didn't know why,” she pursed her lips. “And your socks,” she insisted. He pulled them off and handed them to her. Holding them away with two fingers, she noticed they were mismatched. So unlike Uzi, she thought, and yet, when worn made sense.  

 “I'll wash them,” she offered, dipping her shoulder, “and your shirt too.”

The author is a writer and journalist living in Jerusalem.   

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