Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 29 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
Noa put her suitcases down on the floor and locked the door. “There,” she said into the small cavity of the studio apartment. “Welcome. Have you finally arrived home?” She examined herself in the huge mirror hanging at the entrance and quickly retreated. She didn’t like looking at herself from up close.
“Well, the time has come to get used to a new house,” she said aloud, and chuckled. For the first time, she had a corner that was only hers, and not just some space inside someone else’s place. She bent down to pick up her bags and walked into the inner room. It was heavily furnished, with very ornate pieces. She wondered how much the rent was here. After all, she had to remember that this tiny home was not actually hers, not only because it wasn’t registered in her name, but because she wasn’t even paying the rent.
She sat down on the only bed in the room. It stood in the center of a rug that was a blend of turquoise and other shades of blue, and thought about how none of her sets of linen matched the colors of this room, so it was as good a time as any to buy some new linen. Maybe something turquoise would be good, to match the rug, the curtain, the picture frames, and the door of the walk-in-closet. On the other hand, beech-wood shades or silver would also match, because that was the color of the furniture in the room. Tomorrow after work, she’d go shopping.
She tiredly took her clothes out of her suitcase and went to open the door to the closet. She hung the skirts on hangers and wondered if she should buy some new clothes, if she really would be visiting her grandfather in the near future. He would hardly be pleased to see her in these clothes, even though it was he who had initiated the whole thing.
She would have gladly forgone the whole visit; she hadn’t quite enjoyed the few encounters she’d had with him in the past. But that was not an option. She knew that, and her grandfather knew that she knew it.
She passed her hand over the shelves to make sure they weren’t covered in dust. Just then, her phone rang.
“Hi, Elka, what’s doing?” she asked as she bent over to her bag and took out a desk clock that was mounted on a globe. The colors of the sea and the land actually blended into the décor of the room when she placed it on the dresser opposite the bed. It was one of the few mementos she had from her far-off childhood years, and despite the fact that she was not a nostalgic person, she’d always favored this clock. She vaguely remembered receiving it for getting a good grade on a geography test or something like that. But none of that mattered to anyone anymore. Her teachers from that time were no longer interested in her, and truth to be told—there weren’t too many people who were. If there was someone who took an interest in her, it was only because he or she had a motive involved. She had learned the ways of the world quite well by now.
“I wanted to ask you about Pesach, Noa.”
“What about Pesach?” She took her thick blanket out and spread it over the bed. Finally, the place was beginning to look a bit homier.
“You’re invited to me for Yom Tov. You know that, right?”
Noa chuckled. “You’re so nice, Elka. Thanks very much for the invitation, but I think you’ll have to suffice with only hosting your family.”
“Because I’ve already been invited elsewhere.”
“Oh, really?” Elka wanted to be quiet, but her curiosity was stronger than that desire. “Where to?”
“Very nice.” This time, in addition to her curiosity, Elka’s renowned sense of responsibility kicked in. “Is he religious?”
“So-so,” Noa replied, “but he respects my wishes.” Let’s say. She pushed the empty suitcase into the closet.
“So maybe you could go to him later and at least come to me for the first day? It’s a shame you should lose out on Seder night; it’s such a beautiful night, I have no other way to describe it. You can stay by me and then on Chol Hamoed you’ll go to him.”
“I already bought my ticket, Elka.” Noa opened the second suitcase. “And even if I hadn’t, if my grandfather invited me, it wouldn’t be nice for me to refuse him. I owe him a lot.” She sat down on the bed again and looked around. This place was also a kind of payment from Grandfather; part of it was given for the past, but there was no doubt she would still have to earn the rest.
“You’re flying out of the country?” Elka was shocked. “For some reason I thought he lived here!”
“Most of my family lives out of the country; I have very few relatives in Israel,” Noa replied. “So we’ll end it at that, okay, Elka? I have some important things to take care of now.”
Like so many times before, Elka was taken aback by the abrupt end to the conversation. She wondered about Noa’s personal life, of which she spoke virtually nothing. This grandfather, and the few relatives she had, were seldom mentioned. And her parents—never at all. Was her estrangement from them so absolute, or were they no longer alive?
Without batting an eyelash, Noa handed her credit card to the saleslady, who swiped it, instantly deducting seven hundred and forty shekels from Noa’s account. Noa signed the receipt, took the bag with the two new sets of linen she had bought, and turned to go. But on the way to the door, she saw a sign that all baby clothes were twenty percent off. That reminded her of something.
“You also sell baby clothes?” she asked the saleswoman. “I didn’t know. Where are they?”
“In the back of the store,” the saleswoman replied.
Noa strode briskly in the direction she had been sent.
“Can I help you?” another saleswoman asked with a courteous smile.
“Um…I’d like something for a newborn baby boy. An outfit I can give as a gift.”
“Do you specifically want size newborn? Because you can also buy something that will be for a later stage,” the saleswoman lectured. “They grow so fast at this age, you know, so whatever you buy now might be too small for the baby in just two or three weeks.”
“It makes no difference,” Noa said. “As long as the outfit is nice and impressive-looking. If you want, you can give me something a bit bigger. I don’t have much experience with babies, so I don’t really understand how these things work.”
The saleswoman began pulling tiny outfits off the shelves at a dizzying pace, keeping up a constant prattle about the quality of the fabric, the wonderful workmanship, and how adorable these clothes were.
Noa stopped her in mid sentence. “How much is this outfit?”
“Before the discount, three hundred shekels. After the discount, two forty.”
Noa looked at the outfit the woman was holding when she’d cut her off with her question. It was a small, light-blue outfit with black stitching. A black shadow of a strange-looking dog was sewn onto the back. “Would religious people put such an outfit on their baby?” she asked.
The saleswoman looked her up and down. “You should know what goes and what doesn’t go among your type, no?”
“Um, I don’t really understand much about baby clothes…”
“You’ll probably want to take something else.” She was as courteous as ever. “Something with a plainer look.”
The price tag on the gray outfit that Noa chose showed her that the switch had been worthwhile—this outfit only cost two hundred and twenty shekels. She went back to the register, paid, and watched the saleswoman put the outfit into a pretty box with the store’s logo on it. She hoped Chaiky would appreciate the value of her gift.
“It’s me again.”
“There’s a date for the trial.”
“I hear. But listen, I explained to you already that I’m not involved anymore, so it’s a shame to call me just to give small details like that.”
“I wouldn’t have called you just for that.” The man laughed. “I have more important information. Will you pay me for it?”
The listener’s eyes widened, and he looked at the closed door to his office. “Let’s hear,” he said carefully. “And you know that I pay well and that I’m fair. If I decide that the information can help me, then I’ll pay for it.”
“They came to the court in Israel with a request to issue a search warrant for the house.”
“And the way it looks, they will get it.”
“Yes, but I don’t know how soon.”
“Who is going to carry out the search? The Israelis, or do you people not trust them?”
“I don’t know that either. So, when are you going to transfer the money?”
“What are they looking for there? Diamonds?”
“Maybe. But I think they are looking more for proof of a connection to Rosenberg.”
“They’ve gotten enough, according to what you told me.”
“That’s not what I told you. I said they got a lot, and as a good lawyer, you are supposed to know that “a lot of proof” is nothing so long as the evidence is not hard enough. Now, when will you send me the payment?”
“You can check your bank account in five minutes. When you tell me in more detail what they are looking for—then you’ll get the same amount again.”
“You’re depositing it into my account?”
Even before the phone call to the bank, he placed another call: to Eliyahu Margulies, one of the pillars of the Even Yisrael community.
Without even realizing it, the lawyer began the conversation the same way his caller had. “It’s me.”
“Yes?” Eliyahu was surprised to hear the lawyer’s voice. “Did something happen?”
“I’m asking you to come pick up the Struk file. We’ve already settled on the fact that I’m not working on it. Why should it sit here for no reason?”
Margulies was quiet. “Is it urgent to get rid of it already?” he asked.
“Very urgent. My secretary is going to be organizing my files tomorrow, and will be junking the irrelevant ones. If you don’t want all these documents to find their way to the shredder, then come and get the file today.”
Margulies obeyed, and an hour later he was in Attorney Morchov’s office. The file was waiting on the secretary’s desk, identical to the one he had at home.
Or rather, not exactly identical.
There was a new, handwritten paper that had been added to the end of the file.