Romance in the desert
These are the opening pages of my #WIP about a #romance in #Israel
Jehoiakim Altland, the Jewish journalist woke with a start. His heart pounding and his dripping with sweat, “Not again, how many more nights sleep will I lose before I can erase the memory of the lady in these dreams?”
He sat on his bed and took two pills with a glass of water to calm his pulse, as it was almost time for him to get up for work, he picked the phone up and rang his editor, Abir Moszkowicz. "Abir can you spare me for two weeks? I think I need a vacation. I want to go on an Aliyah, a homecoming back to Israel. I have something that I need to clear up for my peace of mind. I'll tell you more when I get to the office."
Abir didn't take long to reply, "Of course, you can take the time, this is only the third time you’ve asked for a vacation in the eight years that you've worked here. This trip must be important to you to ask for the time off, and I am intrigued to find out the reason for your request."
Jehoiakim got dressed and went to pick his car up from the basement where he'd parked it the night before. He was in such a state he almost passed his car before he realized where he was. He loathed to take a break, that was the driving force behind his success on the paper. He never knew when to call it a day with a story. This story had become a personal mission, something was niggling at the back of his mind, and he couldn't think what it was, and that is what worried him.
After taking the 20 minute drive from his lodgings to the office where he worked, he pulled into the office car park and stopped his engine. The longer he thought about his situation, the more Jehoiakim was puzzled as to what was going on. Being Jewish, he'd learned the value of staying calm and reasoning things out, rather than making rushed decisions, but the more he tried to reason his problem, the more he found himself at a loss.
Abir watched as his friend entered the room in a rush, and said to his secretary, Joanna, "This looks like being a long chat, can you make some coffee please?” Abir opened the door to the editor's office for his friend and walked over to his seat behind the desk. "Shalom, Jehoiakim, First, when do you want the time off?"
There was no time to think, as Jehoiakim replied, "Shalom, Abir. I must apologise for my rushed entrance, I have many things on my my mind. When is it suitable for the pape for me to take my vacation?"
Abir shrugged his broad shoulders, and then replied, with typical Jewish humour in his tone "You ask, when can I let you go? My friend, You so rarely ask for time off,.”Abir laughed, and then continued, “I am usually the one begging you to take a vacation, or lose the time. You are the paper's best writer, but unless you take a break once in awhile, I fear you'll repeat the nervous breakdown you had the year you arrived. You were so keen to impress, you drove yourself to exhaustion, All I can say is you choose your dates, and they’ll be booked."
Jehoiakim replied, "I'd like to fly out to Israel next week, if you can spare me, Abir. I recall those days well, my friend. I recall thinking my writing at the time as a hack writer is zevel. "
Abir smiled, and then said, "Jehoiakim, you may have been rough around the edges, but your work was far from rubbish. I always admired you tenacity and devotion to the truth.” Raising his hands to the heavens, Abir added “Even if it does make you enemies in high places. Don’t worry about the dates, consider the dates booked. Now, can you please enlighten me as to what made you ask for time off."
Joanna came in and put the coffee pot on the table in front of Jehoiakim. After thanking her, Jehoiakim continued their discussion, "For the last two weeks, I've had vivid dreams about taking an Aliyah. I can't tell you why this year of all years. Something is driving me to return this year. In these dreams, I see a beautiful lady with a full figure and dark brown hair beckoning me to the shores of Eilat, or at least I think it's Eilat."
Abir sipped his coffee, and was deep in thought, after a while, he replied, "Correct me if I’m wrong, but you haven't been to Israel in the last five years - other than for the job in Tel Aviv - have you?"
"No, you are right. I haven’t been to my homeland since then. That job was important to us and I spent the week in Tel Aviv ."
"In that case, what makes you think your dream was about Eilat and not Tel Aviv, or Jerusalem, Jehoiakim?"
"Abir, the only thing that comes to mind is I can hear jazz music playing in the background."
Abir smiled as he realized his friend could be right. Eilat holds an annual jazz festival, but something else was intriguing him, "Have you any idea who the lady is? Have you thought of anyone recently that could have triggered your thoughts?"
After a little thought, Jehoiakim replied, "No, I have no idea who she is. Most of my dreams have been about the trip. It's only in the last week that she has appeared in my mind."
There followed a short silence. Then the phone rang, after putting the phone in the cradle, Abir said, "Joanna has booked your flight and hotel, all you need to do is pack and relax."
Jehoiakim glanced around at the map on the wall showing the areas covered by the paper, and then said, "Relaxing is the last thing I can do, Abir. This story could be a big story for our paper. I don't want to mess things up."
Abir rose from his chair, and walking past Jehoiakim on his way to the cabinet to get a file out, he said, "Listen to yourself, Jehoiakim. For once, take a break and relax. Who knows, this lady might turn out to be the holiday romance you need to calm down."
Jehoiakim rose from his chair and paced around the office, first looking out at the throbbing world outside the window, and then at the world map on the office wall. He walked to where Abir was standing and asked his friend, "Do you think I still push myself too hard, Abir?"
Abir turned from the cabinet, and then replied, "If you are asking the question, you know in your heart what the answer is. You do need to take this trip back to Israel. I think if you don't go you'll end up having a breakdown. One thing still puzzles me."
Jehoiakim scratched the stubble on his chin and replied,"What's puzzling you?"
Abir gave a slight shrug, "You still haven't told me why you want to go this year?"
Jehoiakim thought about how to answer the unanswerable question he had been posed and then said, "I can give no certain reason. The only thing I know is that for some reason, my homeland is calling to me louder than before, and I need to answer the call. Perhaps, I'll find the answer when I get there, maybe there is no definite answer to your question, Abir."
Abir raised his cup to down the last of his coffee,and said to Jehoiakim, "L’Chaim.Finish your coffee, you have a lot to do and not long to do it. I hope your journey is fruitful and brings you the peace of mind that you need so badly. Shavua tov"
Jehoiakim raised his cup, and repeated the toast, “B'ezrat HaShem. L’Chaim, to life and what it may bring.”
The week passed too quick for Jehoiakim. Though he was sure that he’d got things in order, he had the niggling thought he’d forgotten something. The days seemed to drag, but the week flew by. He had many things on his mind, not the least was the mystery lady, who is she and what did she have to do with the Aliyah? Try as he might, Jehoiakim could not recall seeing her face before, but something seemed familiar about her.
Although he was a Jew, Jehoiakim had spent the majority of his life far away, mostly in England, but his work as a photojournalist took him all over at a moment’s notice. Deep in his heart, he knew something spiritual was missing in his life. Jehoiakim knew he needed to return to the Holy Land for some reason, but the reason evaded him. He had been so busy he'd never had the time to plan a trip. He found the longer he waited, the more the desire to return burned in his soul.
Jehoiakim had made his plans to get the flight from London to Tel Aviv. At this late hour everything was being rushed through, but he finally got his plan in action and was looking forward to the five-hour flight. Then something happened that changed his plans. He was walking across the airport foyer trying to locate which queue to join, when he was called to the flight desk. There was a message left for him but it was only a quick, garbled message from Abir, "I've arranged for you to meet Adrianna Kucinski, in Milan. She's doing a European tour and her flight to Bucharest doesn’t link with her flight from Milan for a few hours, she’ll meet you in Milan."
The flight change caught Jehoiakim off guard; he'd turned up at the airport expecting to board the flight to Tel Aviv. Now he found that his editor had changed the plan and booked him for the trip to Milan. The modification of policy had left him with only a few minutes over the hour passengers have to board their flights. The stopover in Milan was no problem, after all, he'd always wished he had the time for an Italian vacation, and Milan, not Rome, would be the city he wanted to see. He wished someone had notified him earlier as the alteration had put him on edge.
Jehoiakim had kept abreast of the writing world, in his role as a journalist - even if he had stopped writing outside his job on the Jewish Express, so he had an idea who Adrianna was. As a reporter, he'd made a name for himself by asking interviewees awkward questions, and not giving up until he got close to the truth - as he saw it - his style had both won him fans and respect from his readers, but he'd also made enemies of some powerful people. Death threats were nothing new to him, either as a Jew or a hard-talking reporter. He always kept in mind the quote from Woodrow Wilson,"If you want to make enemies, try to change something."
Changes are a constant companion as a writer, people's views, opinions, and the political interplay was always moving, changing faster than the winds sometimes. Your friend today could become an enemy overnight; such was the life the Jewish people had been forced to live with since time began. The Jews had long ago learned that trust is as fickle as the desert wind that burns the air surrounding you, most people would turn on you if it were to their benefit. Those who stood by you at any cost risked becoming targets of hate as much as the Jews themselves, and those were the people you could trust even if there were few of them to be found.
The plane landed at Milan. The flight from London to Milan was only two hours. Air travel was no bother - now - for Jehoiakim, but he still remembered his first flight to Canada from Gatwick. How could he forget. He'd been forced to travel overnight for an early morning flight, and suffering from nerves he'd not been able to rest during the six-hour wait for the flight. It didn't help his cause that the night he set off, he'd got soaked through within minutes of leaving his house. How he longed to feel the hot sun on his back again after all these years.
Jehoiakim had accepted the meeting with Mrs. Kucinski without a second thought; he had little else to do as it was too late to question the call when he received it and Jehoiakim realized he could use a stopover once in awhile, his writing was getting jaded recently he had noted. He lacked the biting touch his readers came to expect, and he wasn't happy with his work either, even if the regular work paid the bills there was no satisfaction in writing lackluster articles for the younger readers when he wanted to do items of note. Sure, he had gained a massive following with the youngsters, but did he want to report on the pop circus when he knew life was moving fast, and he was missing the real stories?
Something out in the world was calling Jehoiakim, and he needed to find out what was calling him; first he had to find out what was calling him back to Israel at this time, more importantly, why this year?
The plane landed in Milan, and Jehoiakim made his way to the lounge for a cup of coffee - when in Milan try the best coffee in Italy - one of his colleagues told him on his return from a job in Italy. Jehoiakim sat in the lounge listening to the flights getting called in, as there was nothing to suggest that Adrianna’s flight from her last scheduled in Barcelona was nearing, he decided to have a coffee and a pastry to belay his hunger.
The unexpected change to his plans meant that he had to visit the Bureau de Change to get some lira for his snack as all he had was sterling in his pocket, the traveler’s checks were safely locked in his luggage. He had time to open the case, but he didn't wish to open it now, after all, he only needed a light snack, not a full meal.
Jehoiakim glanced around the lobby, trying to get his bearings and find his way to the pastry counter. Being in Italy, he found an abundance of cake and ice cream stands, Jehoiakim realized, he was either going to have to watch what he ate or accept the consequences of gaining some weight with all the exquisite food to eat.
After getting his coffee and cake, Jehoiakim went in search of a seat, preferably one with a view of the arrivals screen. He sat and sipped his coffee, as he did he thought, "this is more like the coffee I prefer, the European blends are too weak for my taste."
The screens showed the flight from Barcelona was about an hour out of Milan and had no unexpected delays. As always, he began to sweat, it is a trait that Jehoiakim had had since childhood when meeting somebody new, even in his late 40's he hadn't shaken his trait; "some things will not change," he muttered as he waited and watched the passengers disembark from the flights. "Stations, airports and bus terminals, lives crisscrossing in a mesh and no one cared who you are, or where you're going.”. As he thought of the many millions of people each day whose lived intertwined, and yet, never meant anything to anybody, not in their lives.
He began to feel on edge as the time for Adrianna's flight landing came closer; would she object to having her short stopover disrupted by another writer, while she expected a rest in her schedule? He wondered why she had agreed to this meeting in the first place? His editor had said that she had a busy schedule planned, and had not much time to spare before going on the second part of the book signing tour and returning to Israel, for her winter break.
Jehoiakim got so anxious he began to pace, "Why am I so nervous?,This isn't the first and probably won't be my last interview." He'd got so wound up, he realized with a start that he'd wandered out of sight of the arrivals board. As he gathered his thoughts and walked back to the seat he'd vacated, he glanced at the board above him, the flight was on the circuit and would be disembarking within 20 minutes.
As he waited for Adrianna to appear, a thought hit him, in all the rush to change flights, he'd had no time to collect ideas for questions. This is going to be fun," he muttered, “I don't know what to talk about or if she has any taboo subjects to avoid, talk about winging it.” Jehoiakim smiled as he thought of the possibilities he was about to encounter, he'd never gone into an interview blind before, he'd often blindsided his interviewee with questions they either didn't know how to answer or chose to avoid, but he'd been in control until now.
The flight landed on time, and Jehoiakim watched as the passengers walked down the aisles to their different meetings, some met friends or relatives, others were met with business associates. It was easy to see the relationship involved by the degree of personal contact in the meeting. To an observer of people, such as Jehoiakim, it was clear that many people were passing through Milan, going to where was the question?
He was so intent on watching the traffic, it was a few minutes before he realized that the Barcelona flight had fully disembarked and Adrianna was not among the passengers. "I hope nothing happens to her," he thought as he made his way to the information desk. His mind was running ahead of him at this point. He began to wonder about all the various scenarios that could have taken place between the meeting being arranged and now.
He arrived at the desk, and waited impatiently for his turn, when it came, he didn't know where to start asking questions. “Can you tell me if a Ms. Adrianna Kucinski was on the Barcelona flight, please? We planned to meet, but she hasn't come through customs and the passengers have left the terminal."
The young lady at the desk checked the passenger list and replied, “ I'm sorry, according to our information, your friend wasn't on the flight from Barcelona."
Jehoiakim thanked the young lady and went to get another coffee, now more than before he needed a drink to calm his nerves. In these days of terrorism, there are so many scenarios, he needed time to get his thoughts clear, but it is hard when you think somebody you know of could be in danger.
"Airports," he muttered as he looked around at the crowds milling, "people coming, going, and meeting people. All these people's lives cross, and they go unnoticed. I wonder how many people passing through could describe even one person here?"
Jehoiakim walked over to the window that showed the planes in the circuit and wondered "Are you in the circuit, Adrianna?" With little else to do, he ordered another coffee and went back to his table, and he realized that worrying about things only made them appear worse than they were in reality, but when your friend is late it is unavoidable - especially if you have no reason for the delay. He sat and pondered, "I wonder where these planes are from and where they are going, there are so many airlines and destinations to choose from these days. I wonder what makes a person choose their destination?"
He was so deep in thought that he didn't hear a faint voice call his name, "Excuse me, are you Jehoiakim? I apologise for the introduction, my editor asked me to meet you, but gave me no information about your description.”
With a start, he turned to see the face of a mature lady looking at him, "Yes, I am, you must be Adrianna," he stuttered as he saw the face of a beautiful Jewish woman, "please take a seat."
Adrianna opened the conservation, "I am sorry to have caused the delay, and I apologize if I worried you. I have a good reason; I stopped over in Turin for a couple of hours."
A little perplexed, Jehoiakim inquired,"Turin?"
Adrianna gave a smile and replied, "Yes, your articles on the Superga tragedy aroused my interest, and as I don't know if I will be in this area again, I decided to see the scene of the crash for myself. It was a great tragedy that all those lives were lost returning from the match in Portugal. To think that most of the Italian national team died in that crash is terrible."
He glanced at her beautiful face and said, "What is worse, is that outside Italy few people have heard of the collision, yet many can recall the Munich disaster. In honor of those who died in the accident, the other teams played their reserve squads for the remaining matches of that season so Turino would win the title."
Adrianna smiled and ran her fingers through her graying hair, and then she asked, "What made you come to Milan? Most people visit Italy and want to see Rome or Venice."
He shrugged, and then replied, "I guess I am not like most people. It isn't anything religious, I never fancied seeing Rome. As for Venice, my friends tell me it is like an open sewer. Other than that, I have long had a fascination with Milan and Northern Italy driven by the desire to find information on the top policeman of the 1950's - Mario Nardone. I tried everywhere, but I can't find any information on his life, do you think it is indicative of the modern society that we know more about the criminals than the police who bring them to justice?"
Adrianna gave a short laugh, and then said, "I think it is more a case of the crime is more interesting because of what was stolen, people's thirst for the knowledge of what others have is unquenchable, that is why gossip columns are so widely read in the papers."
He shrugged, and then replied, "That is true, and the main reason I chose not to write celebrity articles for my paper. I prefer to write about what is happening, not about which celebrity is doing their thing this week. Numerous other writers fill that space. I can't tell you how honored I am that you stopped over for my interview, Adrianna. I realize how busy you must be, and that you are on a whistle-stop tour of Europe to promote your latest book."
She ran her fingers across the table, and replied, "Believe me, I am only too pleased to have this opportunity to take a breath, at my age dashing around Europe is no fun. I too am honored that you took the time to interview me, from what my editor emailed me, you're on your Aliyah and returning to Israel this year. Is there a reason why you chose this year?"
He looked at Adrianna, and then said, “All I know, is that for months, I have had dreams of a lady beckoning me to the shores at Eilat, and for some reason I am feeling the pull of my homeland more this year than ever. I get the sense that something important is about to happen in my life, and for the Lord’s sake, I have no idea what it possibly can be.”
Adrianna sat in quiet contemplation for a moment, and then she said, "Are you sure you hadn't had the lady on your mind? Sometimes these memories lay hidden for years, perhaps, your paths crossed on the last trip home you took."
Jehoiakim glanced around the lounge, and then replied, "I could say that was the case, but my last trip was only a quick business trip to Tel Aviv to make some contacts in the area, and I was so busy working I had no opportunity to leave the city. I can say with certainty that I have never seen this lady before, or been to Eilat, but both she and the area appear familiar to me for some reason."
She sat quietly, running her slender fingers through her hair, and then replied, "There is another explanation, perhaps, you overheard somebody talking about Eilat, and wondered what it would be like to visit the city. I realize this still doesn't explain your mystery lady, are you sure it isn't me, you're thinking of?"
He glanced back to her face, and brushing a loose strand of hair from her face, he replied, "No, that is the only thing I am sure of. The lady I keep seeing is not as tall as you, and she has a fuller figure, and her hair is a darker brown than yours. I don't think I've seen her, but she seems familiar in so many ways."
Adrianna thought for a moment, as she considered the actions of her friend, and after a pause, she commented, "I know it's a remote chance, have you seen her on TV or in the cinema, and not realized the connection?"
Jehoiakim smiled, then replied, "Your hypothesis could be correct, apart from the fact that I am too busy working to watch TV, and I could not tell you the last film I saw at the cinema. One of the reasons for the trip this month is my editor told me that I am pushing myself too hard, and for too long. He's worried I am heading for a nervous breakdown similar to the one I had several years ago."
Adrianna blushed, and then made the remark, "Your editor is a wise man it would seem. I feel a little embarrassed that your homecoming has involved you in this interview, when you need a rest."
Jehoiakim was now the one feeling embarrassed, as he replied,"Please don't feel that way. I know I’m in a rush because the meeting came as a surprise. I won't deny I need a rest, but I wouldn't have missed the meeting for anything, Adrianna."
The milling throng of people passing each other took Adrianna's gaze for a moment. An action that didn't go unnoticed by Jehoiakim. He decided if she wanted to raise the matter, it is her choice, and not his business to pry, However, the thought that two people meeting on a whim and both imagining they saw someone they knew, in the same airport lounge. To him appeared a very remote possibility, but here they were.
As he glanced at her, he saw her face appear to lose its color, to try to ease her tension, he asked, "Do you want to hear a funny story about my trip to Canada?"
Realizing that he'd seen her actions, and done the gentlemanly thing by not approaching the topic. He was trying to give her a way to regain composure and not lose face, she said, "I didn't realize you'd been to Canada, please go on."
He continued,"It was my first flight to Canada, I was going to see a friend - who has passed away - I was going through customs when I got stopped. My friend was a good cook, and she asked me if I could bring some Bay leaves over, as we had a tree in our garden. I never thought there would be any complications, but the guards stopped me at the checkpoint. I had my bags searched as if I was a smuggler, all the time I was wondering what was going on, and then the dime dropped.
I still needed to get through customs and with not having the Canadian cell link I had no way of telling her what was going on. She was on one side of the barrier and I was on the other, we were only a few hundred meters apart, but it may as well have been thousands of miles. When it was over and we met, we had a good laugh about the matter over a cup or two of coffee."
Adrianna gave a weak smile, and then commented, “Thank you for trying to dispel my worries by telling me the amusing story. I’m sorry I got distracted, I thought I saw somebody I hadn’t seen for years, but it couldn’t have been the person.”
Jehoiakim was unsure what to say, but he thought he glimpsed a way in, “Why shouldn’t the person be here? I realise it is a bit of a long shot, the two of us seeing people we thought we knew, on the same day, and in the same airport lounge but these things do happen. Milan is the tourist centre for the north of Italy, after all.”
Adrianna glanced at Jehoiakim, and urged him to lean in as she said in whispered tones, “I realise that, but I thought the person I saw was killed in a car crash several years ago; I went to her funeral, looking back something did appear odd about the burial.”
He leant forward to hear the remainder of the story, and then he asked,“What appeared odd?”
She cast her mind back to that day, and after a pause, she replied, “The casket appeared too light to carry the person I recalled, and I noticed a lady in black hovering on the edge of the service. She never came fully into view but she was always there, on the edge of my vision like just now.”
He ran his fingers across his beard, and then replied, “I have to say that does sound weird to me. I’ve heard of the feeling of someone walking across your grave. Some scientists put this down to somebody crossing your path in an alternate reality, to believe this you need to believe in the multiverse theory that for each action we take, another world is created for the action we never took. The other theory is some people say that if you meet three people from your past, it’s a sign of a portent of your impending death. For myself, I am not sure which theory I believe.”
She looked around trying to see the lady again, but she was not in sight, when she turned back, Adrianna said, “Where does that leave me? Quantum theory? Superstition? Or am I going mad?”
Jehoiakim didn’t like being cornered, and unintentionally this interview was heading that way. He tried to recover lost ground by saying, “You have to remember that I am here because I keep having dreams of a lady who I think I’ve seen before but can’t recall where or when I saw her.”
Adrianna gave a quick look at the clock by the departure board, and said, “I’m sorry to rush, but I need to catch the next flight to Bucharest; if we exchange cell phone numbers I can contact you when I get back to Israel in a week, if you’re still here, Shalom aleichem.”
Jehoiakim and Adrianna swapped phone numbers and her said “Aleichem Shalom.”, As she was about to leave for her flight, he called out, “Adrianna, do you see her by the pastry counter?”
Adrianna quickly glanced to the counter, and then shrugged her shoulders and headed to the queue for the flight to Bucharest.
Jehoiakim took another glance in the direction of the counter, and shrugging, he said, “Am I going mad? Why come home this year of all years, and what is the meaning of seeing this lady in my dreams?”