Women in Autumn
by Tala Bar
Table of Contents
Chapter 1, part 1; part 2
appeared in issue 246.
Chapter 3: Shabat
part 1 of 2
“Women in Autumn” portrays the intertwining lives of three generations of women as they search for love and happiness, or at least understanding. It is the story of one woman’s discovery that she has been betrayed, and where that revelation takes her.
At the hotel in Eilat the phone rang. Half asleep, Lorry picked it up. “Yes? Ah, Tirza! How’re things?” He looked at the clock on the night table. Half past twelve. Perhaps they should also get up, stretch their limbs, maybe go down to the beach.
Anat stretched in bed, her breasts rising above the falling cover. Lorry hung up the phone and looked at her, not so much in lust as in yearning for something hard to get. “So, how is it with your wife?” she asked.
He shrugged. “She’s all right, at the village with her mother and brother. There’s nothing to worry about.” But Tirza’s image rose before his eyes, misty, merging with the autumn clouds. He shook himself and returned to look at his lover. That one’s lines were much more clear, decisive, beautifully smart both physically and mentally. He stretched a hand and grasped at her waist. “Come!”
She shook him off, gently, not hurting. “I have to go. And I’m hungry. Let’s go down, eat something, stroll a bit.”
The sea was almost calm, only a soft, restless ripple breathed on its surface. “Would you like to dip?” Anat asked, idly; the water did not appeal to her and she had no intention of disturbing her make-up.
“You crazy? It’s icy cold.”
She turned toward the voice, blushing a little. Once, years ago, she had spent a night with Itzik after an orgy. She did not actually like him, but needed it then and he was around. She heard later that he had divorced his wife, and then he called her once or twice, but she rejected him.
“So, what are you doing here, Itzik? This is Lorry.”
“Nice to meet you.” They shook hands.
“Are you married?”
“Not exactly... And you — alone here, at the end of the world?”
“At the moment, it is a business trip...”
“What business?” Lorry asked, interested.
Itzik, it seemed, was also in marketing, and the two men got into a professional talk. Anat — though excluded, she did not feel herself so — sat on the shore and watched the waves licking the pebbles.
“Interesting fellow,” Lorry commented when they separated. “Where did you meet him?”
“You don’t want to know. It was before I met you, so you needn’t worry.” Even to herself she sounded vulgar, so she pulled at his hand and sat him beside her, pulled his head to her bosom and planted on his mouth the burning kiss he missed when they got up. They got into making love, ignoring the beachcombers.
* * *
After lunch with her family, Tirza parted from them and entered her car. Having left the village, she stopped on the margin of the high road, sat for a while thinking where she would have liked to go; she did not feel like going back to the empty flat. She could have stayed at the village till evening, of course, but she did not feel like doing that either.
At last she started the car and went on the road leading to the beach in town. She went along the promenade, passed by old houses that the sea breeze had damaged, and by grand new hotels for tourists. At last she stopped by a small, sandy garden, where short bushes and ground plants grew sparsely, trying unsuccessfully to cover the sand. There were some benches looking over the sea, so she got out of the car, locked it and went down to the sea.
That part of the shore was empty of people, only a few heads bobbing in the water at a distance. Tirza strolled along the beach, on the narrow strip between the garden and the water line; she trampled on the wet sand but recoiled from the approaching waves, avoiding wetting her feet.
After a while she sat on one of the benches looking out to the sea from the edge of the garden. The sun hid behind white, full clouds that hovered over a hazy autumn day, without shadows; the sea nodded and glowed in the soft light spread over its surface.
Shura, Maya and Matan, who had been strolling through the garden, came out not far from the bench. Tirza heard the older woman saying, “Maya, why don’t you take Matan and show him how to build a castle in the sand?” She then sat down heavily by her side.
The woman with the honey hair gazed at her friend as if saying, ‘You think I know how to build a sandcastle?’ Just the same, she took the boy’s hand and they went down together to the shoreline.
‘She came to the shop,’ Tirza remembered, telling herself, ‘That must be her mother, the boy’s grandmother.’ Tirza watched mother and child gathering the wet sand and beginning to shape it into a castle, a sense of envy pinching her heart.
“Shura!” Maya called out suddenly, “Come and help us; I don’t know how to do it properly!” Her voice was full of stress, which Tirza did not quite understand. The boy stood at some distance from her, wiping tears from his eyes.
The older woman rose from the bench and went over to them. Tirza saw her taking hold of the child and hugging him, then she talked to the younger woman patiently. She whispered in the boy’s ear and he nodded, crouching beside the other and the three of them began digging enthusiastically, piling up the sand and tightening it up into a rising building.
‘Whatever the problem between them, this is a functional family,’ Tirza reflected.
The wind, which had calmed down since morning, stirred up now. The white clouds darkened, becoming threatening, sweeping fast in the wind, covering and revealing the sky alternately. The waves rose in the sea, broke at the shore and sprayed the sand with white froth; then they sunk back, loomed again with a perpetual movement. Tirza shrank in her light clothes. She had taken a coat from home but left it in the car, and now she tried to strengthen her resistance to Nature. At last she gave in, rose and returned to the car, started and went back home.
* * *
Shura stood up and stretched her legs. “Enough,” she said decisively. “I think it’s going to storm, and we should go back to the car before we get wet in the rain.”
“But Mother,” Matan argued, “look at our castle. We can’t leave it now, before it’s finished.
Maya said nothing. Her behavior in building the sandcastle was very similar to her son’s; she was trying out an action she should have known from childhood but never had the chance to learn. Shura’s affection for the two of them taught her what was happening, and she helped both Maya and Matan as if they were both her children for a time. So, she allowed them both a rest after lunch at home, Matan in his bedroom and Maya on the couch in the living room.
“I have to go out for a couple of hours,” she told Maya. “Will you be all right if Matan calls?”
“Don’t worry, I feel things are getting better between us, after that nice morning together we’ve had. It was a fantastic idea, building castles in the sand.”
“Yes...” Shura felt the pinch, the things the girl had missed in her own childhood. “All right then. I won’t take any longer than I have to.”
Maya did not ask why she was going out; in her profession as a journalist, Shura had some business that had nothing to do with their life together.
This time, however, it was no professional meeting Shura was going to. As she left their block of flats in the town attached to the big city, Shura passed a few other blocks until she arrived at a small garden. On a bench among bushes and flowerbeds, a girl sat with her head bent and her feet playing in the sand. Shura approached with slow, steady steps, but stopped at a little distance and gazed at her with a wondering, but loving stare.
“Galit!” she said at last.
The girl stirred and raised her head. Her black eyes filled with tears.
“Galit, you wanted to see me! After all this time!” Shura cried and came nearer. The girl did not rise toward her, only gazed as if trying to rediscover her mother. Shura sat by her side, took hold of her shoulders and pressed her to her body. As they were close to each other, both the similarity and the difference between them were well marked. They both had a halo of curly hair around their heads, but Shura’s was warm brown and Galit’s jet black; Shura had hazel brown eyes and a soft, full body, while Galit’s eyes were shiny black and a solid, bony body.
Galit’s eyes were dry now, and she moved away from her mother, whose eyes were wet when she looked at her daughter.
“So, what happened?” Shura asked at last. “Everything all right with your father, your sisters?”
“As if you care!” the daughter burst out.
“Of course I care, believe it or not. I love you as always.”
“Even Father?” Galit did not believe her.
“Even Father. I simply could not live with him any more, that’s all!”
Galit shook her head, did not want to believe her. “I met what’s-her-name, by accident!”
Shura straightened. “Maya? Where?”
“Does not matter where. I met her!”
For a while Shura said nothing. “So what?” she asked at last.
“So what? You ask me so what? For her you left Father? I don’t understand any of this! Can you explain it?” she demanded, raised her head and looked at her mother with burning eyes.
Shura paused. How can you explain such things to a girl who had not yet fallen in love either with a man or a woman?
Copyright © 2007 by Tala Bar