o many things are different here. Different good, and different… odd. Like that blue plastic bowl sitting at the side of Zeesy’s bed, with a double-handled pitcher and a white lid that keeps the water clean. Babyte always had a water bottle near her bed, for when she awoke in the night. But the bowl… what’s with the bowl?

It feels weird being alone again. Alone in a Jerusalem bedroom, and yet surrounded by so many unfamiliar people. Zeesy had rushed to school almost as soon as she got out of bed, tying her hair into a ponytail as she went. Daina is not sorry to be left behind. The thought of mingling with a crowd of Hebrew-yapping teens makes her want to crawl beneath the covers. Her bed is comfy, the linens smell good, and the blanket covers her toes. Through the closed bedroom door, she hears Leah talking to the man and the slam of a door. Leah must be home still. There’s no escaping the slip-slop of her slippers in the kitchen.

Tiredness overtakes her thoughts. Daina rolls over and falls back into nothingness.

When she next opens her eyes, the pull of breakfast prods her to rise. In the kitchen, Daina finds milk and bread on the table, with cottage cheese, boiled eggs, olives, and sliced vegetables. Someone has set out a placemat with cutlery. Cool. Daina isn’t sure it is meant for her, until her eye falls on a yellow note with black block letters. “D-E-E-N-A.” Daina frowns, then grins. Leah is still stuck on that name — someone else’s name — but hey, for a spread like this, it’s a small price to pay. She is polishing off her second slice of bread when Baila walks in.

“Boker tov!” She nods briskly, tightening the tasselled belt of her long, cotton robe, adding an accented, “Good morning!”

Daina offers a half-smile. “To-Dah!”

“Yafeh!” Baila nods approvingly and switches on the electric kettle.

Daina points to the door that leads off the kitchen onto a porch. She can see branches and grass through the window.

“Sure!” Baila opens the door for her and she walks out into the crisp, cool air.

The balcony is tiny. If she stretches her arms, she can touch the walls on either side. A clothesline is attached to the stone wall, bare apart from one red towel, upon which the morning dew has left its dappled presence.
Daina peers out over the balcony ledge onto a paved parking lot. Beyond, hemmed in by a row of sooty stone buildings, a tiny wooded knoll rises, where a cluster of evergreens whisper confidences. Daina hugs herself. It’s almost like a snippet of home. Home — where the elm trees bid goodbye as she leaves for school, and where… where Motina has withdrawn into a world of her own making. Wetness wells in the corner of her eye, but Daina lifts her chin and blinks. She sniffs at the air, wanting to savor the scent of the treetops, but is assaulted instead by the smell of frying onions and faint undertones of bleach. Ah, well. This is Jerusalem, not Teplidskai.

(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 621)