A Spy in Exile: Chapter 37


BERLIN, DECEMBER 31, 2014

 

Due to the early hour, the revelers had yet to take to the streets. Helena and Ann were sitting at a corner table at what had already become their pub. They had drunk their first cocktail and were feeling comfortable and at ease. Helena’s hair was tied back, and Ann restored a rogue strand to its rightful place behind her ear.

It was then that Helena noticed that Ann was wearing pajamas under her raincoat.

“I hate dressing to the nines,” Ann admitted, giggling at the sight of the flannel pajamas she had on. “But that’s what’s always expected of me. As if a failure on my part to dress nicely, to put on makeup and to do my hair, is an offense to those who look at me. Funny, isn’t it?” she asked.

“That’s an odd expression—to the nines,” Helena responded. “But you know you don’t have to pretend to be someone else on the outside. You’re not a store mannequin. You don’t owe a thing to anyone. And certainly not in that way.”

“I know, I know,” Ann sighed. “Maybe it’s got something to do with the fact that I always have to be the best at everything, the most educated, the most diligent, the most beautiful. Maybe it’s because I’m a new immigrant.”

“Not much newer than me.”

“Nonsense, you were a child when you moved to Israel.”

“That just means I’ve been a new immigrant for many years.”

They went silent, sensing that something meaningful was transpiring between them, something beyond words.

“I hate Christmas,” Helena suddenly said.

“Strange, me, too, ever since I was a kid. Apart from the presents,” Ann agreed.

“What’s happening at home?” Helena asked.

“I don’t really know. I left Daniel a message to let him know I’ll be arriving tomorrow evening. He didn’t even respond. To be honest, we’ve hardly spoken since I’ve been here. He’s busy, I’m busy. What about you?”

“It’s complicated. These past weeks have left me pretty shaken. You know me a little. I’m fixed in my ways, organized. I need things to run smoothly. The next step was clear to me. Marriage in 2015. Eli is a great guy. He’ll be done with his doctoral thesis within three to four months, so we could reserve a hall for the summer already. But I feel confused all of a sudden. Nothing seems logical any longer. My plans were so clear and now they’ve faded . . . And that’s so not like me at all. To be confused, I mean. I’m not one to get muddled.”

“We need to give all of this some time. These aren’t normal circumstances. It’s not the right time to make decisions.”

“You’re very right.” Helena took Ann’s hand and held it, under the table. They were sitting right next to each other now. Ann gently stroked her hair, and Helena rested her head on Ann’s shoulder. Ann tilted her own head, her cheek resting on Helena’s hair.

“Your hair smells like flowers,” Ann murmured.

“For the first time in a long while, my head is in exactly the right place,” Helena said in a whisper, her head resting in the crook of Ann’s delicate neck, with her own neck curving softly and straining upward.


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