Prose Header

Women in Autumn

by Tala Bar

Table of Contents
Chapter 1, part 1
Chapter 2
appear in this issue.
Chapter 1: Wednesday

part 2 of 2

The new customer was a young girl of about fifteen. She was tall and bony, with black hair and eyes. “Do you have a kitten?” she asked as soon as she was in. “I thought I shouldn’t pick one in the street, although there are plenty of those.”

“You’re right,” Tirza agreed. “You can’t tell what you bring home from the street. At least here you can be sure it will be healthy. Here, let’s see. Do you want a male or a female?”

They approached a cage where a few kittens were playing together; the kittens climbed over each other, collided with each other in a mock conflict accompanied by soft meowing, trying to show claws that had not emerged yet. Tirza and the girl got into a conversation, while the other woman passed from cage to cage, looking without touching the various creatures. Isaac finished his cleaning and entered the inner room. The girl had finally made her decision, and came with Tirza to finish the deal.

“What’s your name?” asked Tirza.

“Galit, Galit Adany,” the girl answered.

“Galit?” the woman with the honey hair turned her head. “Are you Shura Adany’s daughter?”

“Yes. You know my mother? Who are you?”

“Maya Ezekiel...”

“Oh!” the girl uttered, almost dropping the kitten from her arms. Absent-mindedly she received the change handed to her by Tirza, turned and left the shop before Tirza managed to ask a question. Maya hurried out after the girl.

* * *

“Galit, wait, I want to talk to you!” Maya called after the girl, who got quickly farther down the street.

“I have nothing to say to you!” Galit shouted, half-turning her head but not stopping her fast walk.

Maya started running, caught up with the girl and lightly touched her shoulder. The other shook it off and continued to walk. Tears appeared in her eyes and she did not bother to wipe them.

“Please, Galit, stop for a moment. Why don’t you hear what I have to say to you?”

“What can you say to me? You’ve stolen my mother, so what can you say about that?” But she slowed down, as if forced to be curious about the things the honey-haired woman wanted to say to her.

“Come, there’s a little cafe here. Let’s go in, have a drink and talk,” Maya begged. Her voice was soft, not forcing itself, but was full of internal emotions that seemed to have touched the girl’s heart. The girl stopped and wiped her tears, turned toward the woman and examined her for the first time. Maya’s appearance did not express either power or evil; as a matter of fact, she seemed to Galit impotent and pathetic, in spite of her beautiful external appearance. It was something emanating from the innermost of her soul.

“All right,” Galit said weakly. The same sense of pity seemed to be awakened in her that had stirred her mother’s heart. She did not have here the sense of feelings she would have expected from the lover who had stolen her mother from her father and family.

They entered the cafe and sat in a corner. They did not talk until they had ordered, coffee for Maya and orange juice for Galit, and the waitress had gone to bring the drinks.

“You’re also lesbian, then?” Galit asked directly, in the blunt way that was not only natural to her age but also to her nature.

“Not exactly,” Maya answered, hesitating. The waitress returned with the drinks. Galit began to sip through a straw; Maya put a spoon of sugar in the coffee and stirred, ponderously.

“So, how can you live with her?” Galit asked again.

“It’s complicated. Actually, Shura should have told you, she knows I can’t talk about such things. But I received from her such love that I’d never got from anyone else. The rest does not matter much.”

“Does not matter?” the girl asked, unbelieving. ‘Destroying a family is not important to her!’ Her resentment returned to her heart, and as a way to ignore it, she caressed the kitten on her lap.

“You haven’t tried sex yet, have you?” Maya asked suddenly, sounding too blunt to Galit for comfort. Galit blushed and shook her head, her curls waving around it like a black halo. It was hard for her to admit how inexperienced she was, how she was unable to compare with others of her grade. Theoretically, she knew everything, of course; but she had always tried hard to cover her lack of practical experience.

“You don’t know how lucky you are...” she heard Maya whisper.

It seemed to Galit that Maya’s words were directed not to her but to herself. “What do you mean?” Galit asked, suspiciously.

But the woman shook her head, lowered her eyes and sipped from the coffee. Its taste felt too bitter, and she added another spoonful of sugar, then, after a thought, another one. Galit kept silent.

After a while, Maya raised her eyes. “Do you know how much you look like your mother, like Shura?” she corrected herself, as if the use of the word “mother” expressed too much closeness.

“Yes, I’ve been told,” Galit replied against her will. Her anger toward her mother did not diminish with meeting her lover, and the sense of shame returned to her reddening face. She did not want to be like her mother, not at that moment; she did not want to discover in herself the same sexual inclination, which she saw as particularly destructive.

“I must go,” Galit murmured, sipped the last drops of juice, suddenly rose and left. Maya remained in her place, deep in thoughts that did not seem to be particularly happy.

* * *

Early autumn evening came. In the pet shop ‘Friends,’ Tirza and Isaac put their charges to sleep, shut the shop and turned to go to their homes. Isaac lived in an old neighborhood in the southern part of the town, and he took a bus to get there. Tirza lived with her husband in a new flat in the north, and she intended to walk home. She was in no hurry, enjoying the coolness of the evening after the heat of the day.

Dust rose from the sidewalks with the wind, which played with leaves in the air and stirred Tirza’s thoughts. She did not like the city, had always wanted to live out in the country, in a place like the one where she was born and raised.

In her childhood village of Ein Atid she could roam in the fields, the orchards or woods; she would always see the birds flying over her head or playing on the ground; and there would always be some small, wild animals roaming about. There would be proper room for breeding all kinds of pets, not just little ones; horses, for instance... But Lorry’s work was in town, and he did not particularly like the countryside, preferring the sound of cars sweeping by, cafes and restaurants and night entertainment, to anything the country had to offer...

If only they had children, if only she had something to come home for, but it was not fair to think like that, she chided herself. Lorry did not object to having children, only children had not come for the three years they had been trying; and neither of them had found the courage to find out whose fault it was...

* * *

“I’ll have to go to Eilat for the weekend,” Lorry said when they finished washing up and sat for coffee in front of the television. “I have some business there I can’t finish in one day.”

In the last year he had gotten into the habit of going out occasionally on Shabat morning for business meetings, coming back only in the evening; but he had never taken a whole weekend. Tirza accepted these absences, if not indifferently then in compliance, at least on the outside. She could not say Lorry’s treatment of her had cooled down; on the contrary, he seemed to have become more polite and considerate of late, giving her his best attention, at least when he was home...

Tirza half-closed her eyes, examining her husband from under her lids. He was a handsome man, attractive to women; tall, with shining, dark, wavy hair, and soft brown eyes, highly sympathetic; with an aquiline nose and full, soft, vibrant lips, as if beckoning. He was older than Tirza by almost ten years, and she did not know why he had not married before he met her.

They met at the village shop, where he came as a salesman; the most charming man she had ever known. She was a thin, village girl, with a cute face and blond hair flowing on her shoulders, innocence incarnate; but he returned specially for her, took her out, stirred her body and soul in a way no one had done before.

He took her to his bachelor flat in the big city, and she slept with him without any calculations, as if she knew she could trust him. He indeed surprised her by offering marriage, and she agreed without any account to herself. It seemed she could really trust him, because he had advanced in his job as a salesman, getting a permanent job in the sales department of the cosmetic company ‘Pink,’ and recently becoming the manager of the department. That was when he bought their fine apartment in one of the city’s newly built areas.

They seemed well settled and happy with their life, but they kept secrets about their inner feelings for each other and never talked of them.

“You know what?” she said at last. “I think I’ll go visit my family in the village; I haven’t seen Mother for a long time.” Then, after a thought, she added, “That is, if I can take the car...”

At the beginning of their marriage they used to go to the village together, but his business meetings on Shabat prevented that custom. At least, she may be able to talk to her brother Hagai, and to her sister-in-law Ofra. Just talk, because she had not shared her problems with them either... ‘What would have happened,’ she reflected, ‘if I had asked to go with him?’ But she did not ask, and was not even sure why.

* * *

Anat Lyish, who used to be Lifshitz, was talking to her two sons, “So that’s it. You will spend the Shabat with Grandmother because I have to go away, all right?”

Anat was sitting with her sons in the living room just before putting the younger one, eight year old Oren, to bed; the older boy, eleven-year-old Itai, was impatient to go to his computer, as was his habit at that time of night.

Their mother did not find the need to explain to her sons the purpose of her going away, and with the tight discipline she had got them used to, she did not have to explain anything that did not concern them. Anyway, they loved going to spend the Shabat with their Grandmother, Ariela; it was usually more fun than being with their mother.

Having freed herself from that obligation, Anat sat down to look for a while at her own life. At the age of forty-two, she was a little old to be the mother of two young children, when other women of her age had children in high school; but she had made good use of her life until then, so there were no regrets.

Having distinguished herself at school, her goal in life was to go to university. Having no money, forced her to work during her studies, and sometime to have a break from them to accumulate enough for the next year. That prevented her from getting married and settling down earlier, but she regretted nothing; not even having married Ariela’s useless son Dani, who had left her these two children.

Anat met Dani when she was doing her Master’s degree in chemistry, having added business management to her studies, where he was an undergraduate student. Dani was the man who had showed her what an attractive woman she was, and he was the one who had introduced her to proper society fit for her education and potential position. Her own family were not only poor but also uneducated, living a very low sort of life, which she had left behind.

Dani, though, was not a diligent student. He never finished his course, ‘Pink’, Dani left the university and went to work in a shop selling computers, at which he was adept.

Being in love, they got married and lived for a while in Dani’s tiny rented flat; but when Anat had earned some money, she took a mortgage on a proper apartment. It was some time before she became aware that she was the only one bringing money to their small household. By that time she became pregnant, advanced in her job, then gave birth to Itai.

Anat was now beginning to show her real merit. Besides being good at her studies and her job, she became socially successful, learned to dress smartly, and with her high education, she was free from dependence on her husband. She got to know other men who were attracted to her, with whom she would flirt without getting serious.

Dani became jealous, and when Anat became pregnant again, he started hitting her, making all kind of wrong accusations. Anat, who had created her own life and success, was not one to let a man control her life. She divorced him almost with the first blow, then bought a new, better fitted apartment. By that time, she had become head of the production department in the ‘Pink’ company. She hired a woman for cleaning and cooking and took an au pair to help look after the children.

Anat found satisfaction with her work and her children, but had few real friends. She was invited to parties, mainly as a decoration, and even had a few casual love affairs. She was surprised to discover she had a powerful sexual charm, which she learned to activate at will on anyone she was interested in.

Then she met Lorry, head of the marketing department, and their attachment had become stronger than anything she had known before. Now, they were going to Eilat for the weekend, but she was becoming afraid the affair was developing into something more serious than she had meant it to be.

It was Lorry who had changed and seemed to be falling in love with her. Anat had no intention of altering the way of life she had established, and for the time being was unsure what she should do with such state of affairs. It was Lorry who offered that trip, for the purpose, as he said, “to have enough time to discover each other.” Anat was not sure how to interpret these words. She was happy in her sexual relations with him, but certainly she was not in love with him and did not feel herself available for such a feeling.

She remembered having met Lorry’s wife once, at the company’s party. Tirza had impressed Anat as a pale kind of person, very different from what she would imagine Lorry’s wife would be. He was an excellent salesman, but otherwise, she did not know much about his inner life, nor did she want to know.

Proceed to Chapter 2...

Copyright © 2007 by Tala Bar

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